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NIH Director Tabak confirms agency hid COVID genes for Chinese

Acting director of the National Institutes of Health Lawrence Tabak confirmed to lawmakers on Wednesday that U.S. health officials had withheld early genome sequences of COVID-19 at the request of Chinese scientists – but insisted the data remain on file.

Tabak told a budget appropriations subcommittee that the NIH “removed from public view” the data from the pandemic epicenter in Wuhan, China, before adding that researchers can still access it via an archaic “tape drive.”

Vanity Fair recently reported that the information was hidden at the request of Chinese scientists, although it may have been clarified whether the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or was transmitted naturally from animals to humans.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) asked Tabek to explain why US officials would comply with such a request.

“There is no question that the communication we had about the Sequence Read Archive could be improved. I openly admit that,” said Tabek. “If I may allow it, the archives never deleted the sequence, they just didn’t make it available for questioning.”

Lawrence Tabak, acting director of the National Institutes of Health, testifies.
Lawrence Tabak, acting director of the National Institutes of Health, testifies on May 11.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

“So wait, do you still have the information?” Beutler followed.

“We have the information… Anyone who submits to the Sequence Read Archive can request that it be removed,” Tabak said. “And this investigator did that. But we never delete it.”

“So you don’t have the information anymore?” asked Beutler.

“This is what we do. We never delete the information. We’ll keep it,” Tabak clarified.

“So you could withdraw public viewing?” the congresswoman followed.

“That’s right,” he said.

“OK, so researchers can apply to the NIH and get the information from you?” asked Beutler.

“As it was originally removed from public view, it has been withdrawn, and that is the hardest part for people to access,” Tabak replied. “The mistake that was made, and we found that after reviewing all of our processes, was that it should have been suppressed. The difference is that when it’s retired, it’s archived on a tape drive – old technology, but that’s how it’s done. But if it’s withdrawn, it can still be retrieved via the accession number, allowing researchers to access that information.”

Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the World Health Organization's visit on February 3, 2021.
Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the World Health Organization’s visit on February 3, 2021.
Thomas Peter/REUTERS

“So the information is still there?” Beutler sums it up.

“That’s right. The information was never lost,” repeated Tabak.

In a March 31 article, Vanity Fair reported that evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom discovered last year that early COVID-19 sequences had disappeared from a government-run data archive.

When Bloom raised the issue, he was reportedly brought together by a group of researchers led by then-NIH Director Francis Collins and Institute of Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Bloom shared a draft scientific paper with Collins and Fauci, who allegedly protested Bloom’s description of Chinese scientists “secretly” removing the sequences at a Zoom video conference in June 2021. Fauci said the word was “charged” and implied a cover-up, the report said.

Evolutionary biologist Kristian Andersen, chosen by Collins to participate in the call, allegedly told Bloom that the Wuhan team had the right to reclaim early pandemic information and that it was unethical for Bloom to challenge it.

A research group sent feces and other body samples from bats they caught in caves to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to look for coronavirus.
Tabak noted that requests for information to be removed were complied with, but not completely erased.
ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE

Andersen reportedly went so far as to offer to remove Bloom’s article from a “preprint” server “in a manner that would leave no record of this having happened.”

China’s government has refused to cooperate with an international probe into the origins of the pandemic. The COVID-19 virus has killed about 1 million Americans since March 2020 and caused massive social, economic, and educational disruption.

US intelligence agencies said in an August report it’s possible the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, citing the theory as one of two “plausible” explanations alongside natural animal transmission.

dr  Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases left, is seated next to Lawrence Tabak.
Lawrence Tabak confirmed on Wednesday that early genome sequences of COVID-19 have been hidden at the request of Chinese specialists.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

President Biden rarely speaks publicly about wanting China to be transparent about the origins of the pandemic. Ex-President Donald Trump is demanding $10 trillion in reparations from China.

The Biden administration is considering reversing some of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods “separately” from US pressure for coronavirus transparency, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told The Post on Monday.

Documents released by The Intercept in September revealed US health officials indirectly funded so-called “gain of function” research at the Wuhan lab — including modifying three bat coronaviruses distinct from COVID-19, and the discovery that they are classified as “humanized” mice when human-type receptors are added to them.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/11/nih-director-tabak-confirms-agency-hid-covid-genes-per-chinese/ NIH Director Tabak confirms agency hid COVID genes for Chinese

JACLYN DIAZ

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