Top Wuhan virology lab scientist dismisses leak theory

The virologist works at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where the virus is suspected to have originated.

Updated: June 15, 2021 - 9:29am

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A top Chinese scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is dismissing the growing theory that COVID-19 was leaked from the lab. 

Dr. Shi Zhengli, who directs the lab's Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, told The New York Times the lab had not been working on COVID-19 before the pandemic outbreak in what is known as "gain-of-function" research.

"My lab has never conducted or cooperated in conducting gain-of-function experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses," Zhengli said in emails to Times reporters.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many scientists and politicians, including former President Trump, dismissed the so-called lab leak hypothesis as a conspiracy theory. Now many are re-evaluating the hypothesis, including world leaders and scientists who now call for an investigation into the origin of the virus.

"How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence," said Zhengli when asked to support her argument and about calls to investigate her lab. "I don't know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist."

The Chinese government has said the virus started at an exotic Wuhan food market where the virus jumped from a bat to human.

However, China’s refusal to allow an independent investigation into the Wuhan lab or to share research data has fueled suspicions about the pandemic having started in a city that also has a lab known for its work on bat coronaviruses.

"I'm sure that I did nothing wrong," Zhengli also said. "So I have nothing to fear."

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