(RoyalPatriot.com )- In emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know, early on in the pandemic, EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak opposed the public release of COVID-19-related virus sequence data gathered from China as part of the USAID “PREDICT” program.
The emails are from April 2020 and involve EcoHealth Alliance, scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and Metabiota, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company that is backed by Google and works with USAID’s “PREDICT” program that tracks unknown viruses.
Tammie O’Rourke from Metabiota sent an email to Hongying Li, EcoHealth’s coordinator of programs in China and Southeast Asia regarding the virus sequences detected in China. The sequences had been submitted to GenBank, the public genetic sequence database, and O’Rourke and Hongying Li discussed whether the submitted sequences should be uploaded to GenBank and made public.
Hongying Li wanted to hold off making the sequences public, arguing among other things that because of COVID-19, the relevant data had to be “reviewed and approved by the institution in China.”
Peter Daszak then got in on the conversation, adding that it was “extremely important” that these sequences are not uploaded to GenBank and publicly released. What concerned Daszak at the time was that then-President Trump cut US research on bat-to-human virus transmission due to COVID-19. Daszak said if the virus sequencing was made public it would be “very unwelcome attention to UC Davis, PREDICT and USAID.”
In short, the public’s right to know takes a back seat to “unwelcome attention” and a loss of federal funding.
U.S. Right to Know obtained the emails as part of a California Public Records Act request to the University of California, Davis. The attachments accompanying the emails were not included so the actual viral sequencing discussed in the emails was not available for review. Therefore, U.S. Right to Know was unable to determine if the sequencing in question was ever uploaded to GenBank.
EcoHealth Alliance denied that any virus sequences were kept off of GenBank.