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Infectious disease expert told Fauci in January 2020 that COVID-19 looked potentially ‘engineered’

Andrew Kerr, DCNF

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci was informed by an infectious disease expert on Jan. 31, 2020, that a small part of COVID-19 “potentially” looked engineered.
  • The expert, Kristian Andersen, radically changed his position on potential COVID-19 lab manipulation within a week of sending his message to Fauci.
  • Andersen derided “crackpot theories” that COVID-19 is “somehow engineered with intent” in a Feb. 4, 2020 email to Dr. Peter Daszak and other virologists.
  • Andersen also published a paper in Nature in March 2020 reporting that COVID-19 exhibited no signs of lab manipulation. The paper was cited by Fauci the following month as evidence that the virus could not have come from a Wuhan lab. 
  • Fauci has since changed his position on the possibility of a lab leak origin, saying in May he was “not convinced” that COVID-19 developed naturally.

An infectious disease expert emailed Dr. Anthony Fauci in late January 2020 informing him that a small part of COVID-19 “potentially” looked engineered.

“The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” the expert, Kristian Andersen, wrote Fauci on Jan. 31, 2020, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

“We have a good team lined up to look very critically at this, so we should know much more at the end of the weekend,” Andersen added. “I should mention that after discussions earlier today, Eddie, Bob, Mike, and myself all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory. But we have to look at this much more closely and there are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.”

Fauci thanked Andersen for his message in an email response the following day, and said they would “talk soon.”

Andersen’s opinion on the possibility that COVID-19 could have exhibited signs of engineering changed dramatically within a week of sending his email to Fauci.

In a Feb. 4, 2020, email discussing a draft letter to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Anderson derided “crackpot theories” that COVID-19 is “somehow engineered with intent and that is demonstrably not the case.”

“If one of the main purposes of this document is to counter those fringe theories, I think it’s very important that we do so strongly and in plain language,” Anderson wrote in the email, which was obtained by the watchdog group U.S. Right to Know. “‘[C]onsistent with’ [natural evolution] is a favorite of mine when talking to scientists, but not when talking to the public – especially conspiracy theorists).”

Andersen’s Feb. 4 email was addressed to EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak, who worked closely with the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the pandemic.

Daszak’s group funneled $600,000 in taxpayer funds to the Wuhan lab between 2014 and 2019 as part of a project to study bat-based coronaviruses and he played a central role at the onset of the pandemic in suppressing debate about the possibility that the WIV could be connected to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Andersen published a paper in the science journal Nature in March 2020 reporting that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, does not exhibit features that point to lab manipulation.

“[W]e do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” Anderson’s paper stated.

Fauci referenced Andersen’s paper during an April 18, 2020, White House press briefing as evidence that SARS-CoV-2 contains features that are “totally consistent” with an animal to human origin and that don’t point to lab manipulation.

Fauci’s comments at that press briefing were characterized at the time by media outlets such as Business Insider as a rejection of the lab leak “conspiracy theory.”

Fauci has since changed his tune on the lab leak theory, telling PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders in May that he was “not convinced” that COVID-19 developed naturally.

Andersen said Tuesday that his email to Fauci was a “clear example of the scientific process.”

“As I have said many times, we seriously considered a lab leak a possibility,” he said on Twitter. “However, significant new data, extensive analyses, and many discussions led to the conclusions in our paper.”

Daszak praised Andersen’s characterization of his email to Fauci.

“This is called science, folks,” Daszak tweeted. “You look at the evidence, generate hypotheses, discuss with others, dig deeper, refute some hypotheses, find evidence to support others, then you come to a conclusion & make that public.”

Andersen did not return a request for comment.

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Founded by Tucker Carlson, a 25-year veteran of print and broadcast media, and Neil Patel, former chief policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, The Daily Caller News Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit providing original investigative reporting from a team of professional reporters that operates for the public benefit.

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