Simone Gao: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Zooming In China. I’m Simone Gao. CNN reported that the U.S. Intelligence community is still divided over two theories of the SARS-CoV-2 origin and that the 90-day report is not likely to reveal earth-shattering information. Why is that? The Biden administration has predicted that science, not intelligence, would be the key to discovering the origin of the virus. What does that mean? Also, the U.S. Intelligence community has obtained a large amount of bats and rats virus sample data from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Would that be the silver bullet of this probe? I had these discussions with Dr. Xiaoxu Sean Lin, former lab director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. This is part one of our interview.Thank you, Dr. Lin, for joining Zooming In China today.
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: Thank you, Simone. Great to join you.
Simone Gao: So, regarding Biden administration’s 90-day report the COVID origin report CNN reports that after three months of pouring over data and raw intelligence, the intelligence community is still divided over two theories, one suggesting that the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan and the other suggesting that it jumped naturally to humans from animals. The sources said the report, as it stands right now, contains nothing too earth-shattering. So my question is, you know, regarding the natural origin theory, as far as I know, they haven’t found the intermediate host between bats and the humans, and that is a critical piece of evidence that will prove that the virus has a natural origin. So without that, how can part of the intelligence community be sure that this virus started in nature?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: So definitely the current evidence showing that only one virus isolated has been identified in a bat that’s RaTG13 by Dr. Hosseini’s group showing 96.2% homology with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. But that virus still have a long gap in, in the path of evolution to become a SARS-CoV-2. So you definitely need an intermediate animal host in order to show that this virus is nature origin. But right now, even though there are samples being identified from pangolins and other animals having virus samples similar to RaTG13, but they are also far away from SARS-CoV-2. So, we don’t have any intermediate animal hosts being identified, and China say they have screened hundreds or thousands of animal samples in Wuhan and other provinces as well, but no sample is showing positive. So, no animal sample can be identified as an intermediate animal host. So, it is the biggest gap in the series of, of national origin. And this part even Chinese government don’t deny because right now the Chinese government narrative has been been pushing the international society to accept that origin may be a lab leak from United States military, or a transmissions through frozen food, right? Even the Chinese government don’t believe that the virus may be a natural origin right now. So, I don’t think the United States intelligence community can identify any virus strain that have higher homology to the SARS-CoV-2.
Simone Gao: Yeah. That’s why people wonder how can they make such a conclusion that the virus is actually from nature. But another question I have is do you agree with CNN that this 90-day report will not have ground breaking discoveries?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: Oh, definitely. I think it’s very difficult for any groundbreaking evidence being discovered through these kinds of intelligence committees’ efforts. Because, timing-wise, it’s too late. The Chinese government have plenty of time from last year to to shift through their animal samples, human samples virology testing results from different resources. And they have been able to probably clean the datas, uh, change the data, and they rejected international collaborations on the investigations, right? So it’s too late to get, uh, very strong evidence directly from Chinese government. And also even WHO’s investigation team cannot get any raw sample datas, uh, raw data analysis from Chinese government. So I think the United States intelligence can only rely on maybe insider informations, satellite images and other circumstantial evidence to suggest that the virus may not come from the natural origin or may not come from the frozen food or maybe a potential lab leak. So definitely we need to keep in mind, this is a intelligence probe not a scientific study. This is not a scientific study that can identify a virus origin, because the other virus like HIV and SARS, you know, for decades, we don’t know what the true origin of the virus. We we, we don’t think 90 days can do the magic.
Simone Gao: Yeah, it’s very interesting. You said this is not a scientific probe, it’s intelligence work and you know, CNN reports that the Biden administration said because we lack a windfall of new information, uh, they don’t expect to uncover a smoking gun, like intercepted communications, for example, that would offer definitive proof for either theory. So, the Biden administration’s 90-day push is predicted expectations that science not intelligence will be the key. I mean, you just said the opposite. What, what is your take on this?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: Yes, I think the issue here is to investigate how the virus outbreaked in Wuhan, right? It’s the origin of the outbreak. And so this is epidemiology and public health questions, not the virology question regarding how the virus originated in animal species and how did it went through zoonotics transmission to become infectious to human being. Not this kind of scientific question. And so, for origin of the outbreak, so there are so many different scenario, right? So, definitely international society have the right to investigate whether this was a potential lab leak from Wuhan in China. And that’s why I believe it was more critical for the intelligence community to to be transparent, what kind of information they have collected. So, for them several months ago, there are so many reports talking about potential insiders defected from Chinese government, right? So, those insider news probably will provide direct evidence regarding any potential gain of function research, any lab engineering of dangerous viruses and any coverup of the true patient zero or when exactly did the outbreak started. Right? So, it could be earlier than December, 2019. So, these are very important information that international society demand a clear answer on it. So, this is regarding about the origin of the outbreak. And that’s why I believe it’s a question for intelligence community, not the scientific question.
Simone Gao: Hmm. Not a scientific question. But you know, last week CNN also reported that the intelligence community, they obtained a trove of genetic data drawn from virus samples at the Wuhan lab. You know, some officials believe this could have been the source of the outbreak. What do you think of this batch of data? Is it likely to contain the groundbreaking information that will tell us the origin of the virus?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: Well, from the CNN report it’s clear that a database is collected. It was, it was identified through some intelligence community efforts, maybe it’s Cloud copy of previous database. So, they suggesting all the data in this resource might not be of top secrecy inside the Chinese government. And if this is a database related to the collaboration between military projects with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, I don’t think it will be a database that previously open to scientists inside China, outside China. Even the Chinese government claim that the, the database was took offline on September 12th, 2019 because of cyberattack. But if it was a public sharing database, then after you resolving the cyberattack issues, you should bring back the database to the public, right? So Chinese government didn’t do that for 18 months. So I don’t think, uh this was related to a data cyberattack. So it may have some information related to gain of function studies inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but at the same time, I don’t think they have very, very sensitive information, maybe related to military projects, maybe design bioweapon programs. Those kinds of information you probably won’t see in this kind of database. So, that’s why I believe they there won’t be any earth-shattering evidence coming from these database.
Simone Gao: Right, right. What you just said is very interesting. You said you know, the evidence, the data that’s related to the military project, won’t be revealed, it won’t be even put on the website online. So this this batch of data wouldn’t contain information of that. So, because of that, it won’t tell us the origin of the virus. So, your assumption is, you know, the data that related to the military project is the key. And are you saying the origin of the virus is definitely related to this military program?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: I was emphasizing the Chinese government is developing, uh, bioweapon programs and there are many military units and also have a lot of collaborations through military-civil fusion projects working with many universities’ research institutes, like Wuhan Institute of Virology, inside China. So, some of the projects probably related to the bioweapon programs, uh, that’s for sure, because Chinese government clearly has strategies decisions in developing more bioweapon programs. And these can be confirmed by many of the military generals books and the writings even in military universities. So Chinese government’s working on bioweapons, but of course we don’t know exactly whether, SARS-CoV-2 was directly related or directly an outcome of a military bioweapon program, but it’s likely to be a product of gain of function studies. So people have been questioning about the role of Wuhan Institute of Virology in this part. Of course, right now we don’t have direct evidence that circumstantial evidence suggesting a lab leak from Wuhan Institute of Virology. And you can see the report from the Republican committees the China Task Force in the United States, uh, House Congress. So in this way if the international society can identify some gain of function studies that’s related to SARS-CoV-2, of course it make the whole world clear how severe the situation it is, how badly the Chinese government cover up, uh these crime in developing a bioweapon program that harmed society harmed the whole world.
Simone Gao: Hmm. Okay. So, can you just elaborate a little bit more about you know, the nature of this bad of data, this batch of data? So according to the reportthe data contains the genome sequencing of the virus samples, and also supposedly the substantial, you know, the circumstantial and background information such as data entry background of the sample, like where they’re collected and the nature of the virus and stuff like that is equally important. But you were saying even with that, it’s not enough to reveal, probably not enough to reveal, the nature of the origin. Can you explain a little bit more?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: So, right now it’s very clear that Wuhan Institute of Virology has the capacity to engineer recombinant coronavirus through reverse genetics, and their technology has matured. So they the engineering, the editing trace can be completely coverup or erased through the recombinant technology. So basically, that’s saying you can engineer a recombinant virus without without any evidence, without any trace left in the engineering process. So, from the outcome, from end product from the genome sequencing, you cannot tell whether this virus was engineered or was actually isolated. And so that’s why it’s very difficult.
Simone Gao: Right. So, the genome sequencing is not enough. What about the other background information such as the type of the virus, where they’re collected you know, what other information would they register when they do this kind of a data entry?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: So, I think think Chinese government took at least the database offline, so I think they do contain certain level of sensitive information. So, these are probably related to the contextual information regarding the samples or where they collect the samples, or when did they collect the sample, where they do the where do they conduct the research work and what kind of work is, again, after you start it, is it related to reverse engineerings and what kind of animals the, those samples were collected. So, there may be some sense that information regarding the the Institute doing gain of function studies, testing whether the virus have gaining capability to infect human beings, or maybe we even with higher transmissibility or even higher pathogenicities. So, that may be related to that. So, I think Chinese government is it’s quite clear that some of the studies is against medical ethics. If it’s remotely related to a military project, of course it become even more sensitive. So I think the contextual information can provide additional insight in terms of scale, the scope of the gain of function study that’s been conducted in Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Simone Gao: But it’s not enough to draw a definitive conclusion that this virus is from, you know, nature or it’s lab-made. Is that right?
Dr Xiaoxu Sean Lin: Yes. And I think the most convincing evidence is probably come from a defector insight. Anyone who can bring up a lab note or a project design or procedural documents showing a gain of function study was conducted in the lab at what times, and also what kind of engineering they did to the virus or any testing results raw datas. So, I think the insider information will be those most powerful information that the intelligence community can collect. And I hope the United States intelligence community can reveal to the public what kind of information that a defector from China has brought up and that’ll be a more eye-opening thing than any other generic uh intelligence probe, or scientific analysis.
Simone Gao: That’s it for today. As you know, we released a documentary movie on The Clean Network last week. It is part two of a documentary series called The American Dream Takes On China, Inc. That tells the story of former Under Secretary of State Keith Kroch leading a group of Silicon Valley veterans beating the CCP in the economic battlefield. We first published it on our membership website. Now it’s available on our YouTube channel. So be sure to check it out. And if you like our production, please sign up for our membership website or donate to us. Our website is zoomingin.tv. Thanks for watching. I’m Simone Gao, and I’ll see you next time.