Virologist: Lab leakage claims pure fabrication

China Daily
Chen Zhuo
2020-05-26 21:42:29

Research under pressure

Despite these safety guarantees, Yuan said the recent onslaught of conspiracy theories against the institute has brought great pressure to the researchers who are busy studying the virus and looking for a possible cure or vaccine.

"I believe it would be hard for anyone to be completely indifferent to such suspicions, rumors and even malicious, offensive remarks that are pulled out of thin air," he said.

One rumor that was particularly toxic claimed that a female postgraduate student from the institute was the "patient zero" for COVID-19. "The student had graduated in 2015, and has been working and living a normal life in another city," Yuan said. But the rumor did "irreparable damage" to her safety and privacy and that of her family, he added.

"Despite unexpected pressure and stress, my colleagues and I clearly know that defeating this virus is our top priority and responsibility, and we have worked day in and day out without holidays or weekends," he said. "Our hard work has been fully supported by Wuhan residents and the government and is recognized by the international scientific community."

The institute is conducting research on the basic biological characteristics of the novel coronavirus and its mechanism of infection, as well as drug screening and vaccine development.

The Wuhan institute, along with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and ShanghaiTech University, discovered compounds with new structures that can effectively inhibit the coronavirus. The results were published online in the journal Science on April 23.

An inactivated vaccine jointly developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co and the Wuhan Institute of Virology was approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China on April 12 and was put into clinical trials the same day.

"It is the policy of the WIV to share scientific research information in an open and timely manner," Yuan said. "The P4 lab is an indispensable support platform for these efforts.

"Conducting systematic and in-depth research on a new virus that is so cunning and hard to counter urgently requires closer communication and cooperation among international peers."

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