WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and lawsuit filed by Empower Oversight Whistleblowers and Researchers (EO), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) deleted information from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – as per the Chinese lab’s request – relating to genetic sequencing of the novel coronavirus, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Empower Oversight, based out of Arlington, Virginia, got their hands on over 230 pages of documents from 2020 – made up of emails and other types of correspondence between WIV and NIH officials – which seem to feed into the developing narrative that the COVID-19 pandemic may have been the result of WIV research into viruses – funded, in part, by a NIH sub-grant from U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance – that managed to leak from a Wuhan lab, as opposed to occurring naturally as early media reports had indicated.
Several prominent NIH officials are mentioned in the documents obtained by Empower Oversight, including then-NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, both of whom participated in active discussions and decision-making relating to virus research in EO’s materials.
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The documents show that on June 5, 2020, a Wuhan scientist asked NIH to retract their submission of “BioProject ID PRJNA637497” – genetic sequencing data otherwise known as “Submission ID SUB7554642” – due to a mistake; NIH replied to the request on June 8, saying that they normally don’t delete submissions, but instead update them to reflect new or corrected information.
However, on June 16 – as per a request from the Wuhan scientist – NIH then deleted the entirety of “BioProject ID PRJNA637497.”
“Recently, I found that it’s hard to visit my submitted SRA data, and it would also be very difficult for me to update the data,” the scientist was quoted by EO as saying. “I have submitted an updated version of this SRA data to another website, so I want to withdraw the old one at NCBI in order to avoid the data version issue.”
Additional documents, according to EO, reference a Seattle, Washington-based professor and his concerns that the genetic sequencing data contained in the then-deleted “BioProject ID PRJNA637497” supported the theory that the novel coronavirus may have been man-made.
“Professor Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center later sent the group an email stating that the deleted data seemed to support the idea that the pandemic began outside the Huanan market in Wuhan and that the matter must be analyzed properly,” the EO documents state.
The EO claims that NIH has archived copies of the deleted “BioProject ID PRJNA637497” data, but that the agency is currently refusing to make it publicly available; a NIH spokesperson has since stated that “We are working to make more information available.”