NIH pushed to rule out that COVID originated in lab in favor of animal-origin theory, emails show
Collins, who has since retired, even referenced the paper in a blog post on the NIH website shortly after it was published.
Bureaucrats at the National Institutes of Health, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and agency director Dr. Francis Collins, supported a paper arguing that COVID originated naturally even though not all of the paper's authors initially agreed with the theory and one researcher even said the group was "trying to disprove any type of lab theory," according to emails.
The March 2020 paper, "The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2," concluded that "evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus" and "we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible." The work went on to become one of the most-read science articles ever.
Having a debate about accusations that COVID was released by humans would "unnecessarily distract top researchers" and "do unnecessary harm to science in general," virologist Ron Fouchier wrote in a Feb. 2, 2020, email chain including Fauci, Collins and other scientists. "At present, the arguments that nCoV-2019 could have emerged from an animal source is much stronger than other possibilities."
That same day, Collins said the arguments are making him come "around to the view that a natural origin is more likely."
In an email chain from Feb. 8, 2020, to Collins and other scientists, virologist Kristian Andersen, one of the paper's authors, wrote: "Our main work over the last couple of weeks has been focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory, but we are at a crossroad where the scientific evidence isn't conclusive enough to say that we have high confidence in any of the three main theories considered."
Andersen was against publishing anything about COVID's origins at this time due to a lack of data.