DARPA Denied Daszak Funding for Dangerous COVID Research in 2018

New documents leaked by the Covid-19 pandemic origin research group DRASTIC have indicated that the controversial non-profit EcoHealth Alliance sought $14 million in funding in 2018 for a project that would expose wild horseshoe bats in China to altered coronaviruses.

Headed by Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborator and zoologist Peter Daszak, EcoHealth Alliance’s proposed three-year study would have released skin-penetrating particles containing a “novel chimeric spike protein” from a bat coronavirus into bat caves in China’s Yunnan province to study and prevent the transmission of such viruses to humans. The study, however, was denied US funding by the US Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) 18 months before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic after concerns arose pertaining to the study’s safety.

Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance’s proposal, titled ‘Project Defuse’, would have seen the British zoologist team up with professor Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and a number of US universities to conduct ‘gain of function’ research. Characterised by the human manipulation of bat coronaviruses to target “human-specific [furin] cleavage sites” – a unique enzyme-like protein protrusion that allows for the ‘cleavage’ of a virus’s spike protein and the injection of its genetic material into a human cell. The research would have overseen the attenuated virus’s release back into wild bat populations in China’s Yunnan province, the widely accepted ‘ground zero’ of the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, DRASTIC said EcoHealth Alliance’s “discussion of a planned introduction of human-specific cleavage sites” in the proposal indicated that a closer review by the “wider scientific community of the plausibility of artificial insertion” was warranted. While the documents in themselves do not present any conclusive evidence to support the COVID-19 ‘lab leak theory’, they further highlight the fact that US agencies, such as EcoHealth Alliance and DARPA, had expressed an interest in ‘gain-of-function’ research into bat coronaviruses prior to the pandemic.

Indeed, China, the US, and EcoHealth Alliance’s engagement and interest in gain-of-function research is well documented. As outlined in Lotuseaters.com’s comprehensive investigation into the claim that Covid-19 had escaped from the WIV, gain-of-function research into coronaviruses had been of key interest since as early as 2014. Earlier this month, an investigation conducted by The Intercept further solidified such speculation when it was revealed that the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) had granted a total of $3.1 million to Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance over a number of years to be used to “identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to infect humans” at the WIV.

Responding to DRASTIC’s leak of the documents, DARPA affirmed that it had “never funded directly, nor indirectly as a subcontractor, any activity or research associated with the EcoHealth Alliance or WIV.”