COVID-19 may have come from a laboratory in China, a former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director said in recent closed-door testimony.
Dr. Francis Collins, the NIH director until late 2021, said that the theory that COVID-19 came from a lab in Wuhan “is not a conspiracy theory,” according to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The panel has released a summary of Dr. Collins’ transcribed interview since it took place on Jan. 12.
Dr. Collins, 73, who is still President Joe Biden’s science adviser, was director of the NIH from 2009 to 2021. He was the boss of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who helped craft the U.S. pandemic response.
The former officials were brought in as the panel investigates how the government responded to the pandemic.
Dr. Collins and Dr. Fauci “prompted” the drafting of a paper called “Proximal Origins” that was published in early 2020 and claimed to disprove the lab leak theory, according to an email from one of the authors. Neither Dr. Collins nor Dr. Fauci were named in the acknowledgements or listed as a co-author of the paper.
Two months after the paper was published, Dr. Collins wrote to Dr. Fauci about public discussions about the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“I hoped the Nature Medicine article on the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 would settle this… Wondering if there is something NIH can do to help put down this very destructive conspiracy … Anything more we can do?” Dr. Collins wrote at the time.
Dr. Fauci, meanwhile, promoted “Proximal Origins” from the White House podium before alleging he could not recall the names of the authors.
A number of experts and outlets have backtracked on their earlier position that COVID-19 did not come from a lab, including The Washington Post and the U.N.’s World Health Organization.
Dr. Collins told the subcommittee that Dr. Fauci invited him to attend a Feb. 1, 2020, conference call that featured scientists who went on to write “Proximal Origins,” according to the subcommittee.
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