In early 2020, Prashant Pradhan and collaborators posted a preprint titled “Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag” in biorxiv. Based on the released emails from NIH under FOIA, we now know that this article and its coverage in zerohedge upset Fauci so much that he immediately convened an urgent meeting of virologists and several health bureaucrats from US, UK and Europe. All details of this meeting had been redacted, but the virologists present in the meeting fast-tracked a Nature Medicine paper claiming the virus definitely came from animals even though they described it as lab-engineered in their private emails. This paper was then used for over one year to censor all counter-arguments. Especially, biorxiv retracted the preprint due to intense pressure and thus destroyed its reputation as a preprint server for good.
Another unusual connecting between Covid and AIDS came out afterwards. Ed Hooper, who wrote the book The River, A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS in 2000 noticed interesting similarities between how AIDS was claimed to be from African bushmeat, and Covid was claimed to be from the meat of bat or pangolin. But there is more. The same scientists and journalists, who went on overdrive to discredit his well-researched work were all co-authors of the fast-tracked paper on the origin of Covid. What a coincidence. Quoting Ed Hooper from his blog -
3) Next let’s take a look at the co-authors of the letter of March 17th in Nature Medicine. I realised, to my considerable surprise, that I had already encountered three of the five co-authors of the Andersen article, and they were not people whose work had impressed me on the subject of identifying the origins of diseases. Two of them were Eddie Holmes from the University of Sydney and Andrew Rambaut from the University of Edinburgh. Twenty years ago both men were working in Bill Hamilton’s old department, the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. (Hamilton was my mentor and greatest supporter from 1993 until his death in 2000, and he wrote the foreword to my book “The River”.) Interestingly, several of the young students in the Zoology Department, including Holmes, Rambaut, Oliver Pybus and Michael Worobey, have since Hamilton’s death in March 2000 been quite outspoken opponents of the OPV/AIDS theory. In the period before and after the Royal Society meeting on “Origins of HIV and the AIDS Epidemic” in September 2000 I spoke at some length with Holmes and had a lengthy exchange of emails with Rambaut. Later, both men published articles which insisted that the OPV theory of origin could be disproved. At the time I did not feel equipped to counter them. However, as I later realised, many of their arguments (which I shall not revisit in this essay) did not stand up to scrutiny.
It’s worth noting that these days Eddie Holmes is not only based at the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity at the University of Sydney, but has also been working for some time at Chinese institutions, such as the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and School of Life Science at Fudan University, Shanghai and the Zhejiang Forest Reserve Monitoring Center in Hangzhou. It is therefore possible that he is unconsciously sympathetic to Chinese colleagues, and sensitised to avoiding the causing of embarrassment to his hosts. [See: Gao, Holmes, Zhang et al., “Newly identified viral genomes in pangolins with fatal diseases”; Viral Evolution; 2020; 6(1); veaa020, published on April 12th. This article reports the identification of two new viruses in pangolins; however, neither were coronaviruses, and no coronaviruses were detected.]
Now we come to Bob Garry, the final author of the Andersen piece, who has what is sometimes referred to as “a chequered history”, as evidenced in the narrative below. He is known by some of his peers for publishing on a wide variety of subjects, including some which fall outside his expected range. In 1991 [?] I went to New Orleans to interview Professor Garry, because he claimed to have positive Western blot tests from a mooted early case of AIDS (Robert R, a teenager from St Louis Missouri, who died in 1969). Garry turned out to be an unexpectedly colourful character. We arranged to meet on a street corner in New Orleans, which was unusual, and he left me standing there in near-40C heat for more than half-an-hour. Finally I returned to my hotel room to take a shower, only for him to knock on my door 5 minutes later, to say that he had been watching me from his car, and that this had been a necessary security measure. Days after my return to the UK, I phoned Garry to ask some follow-up questions, and he now claimed that some of the Western blots from Robert R. had been stolen from his lab, that this had happened around the time of my visit to New Orleans, and that he suspected me of involvement. I was flabbergasted, and quickly disavowed him of that notion.
However, in 1997 I heard rumours that Garry was getting results from Polymerase Chain Reaction analysis of the Robert R. samples, and so I phoned him to find out more. He told me that the PCR sequences from Robert R. were “very strong” and that they diverged by only around 3% from early isolates such as LA1 from France and Gallo’s HTLV-III. Two years later he and co-authors reported their findings. They appeared not in a medical article, but in an abstract presented at the 11th Conference of Virology in Sydney, Australia [VW69.01, on page 64 of the Proceedings]. A brief article in New Scientist [“Old adversary”; New Scientist; August 21st 1999, page 18] claimed that the PCR sequences from Robert R were over 99% genetically similar to HIV samples from 1983 which, said Garry, suggested that HIV had existed in humans for “hundreds of years”. However, people who are experienced in PCR work point out that this degree of homology with lab clones such as LA1 and HTLV-III strongly suggested that there might have been contamination involving the control samples used in the lab. I phoned John Sninsky, a man from the Cetus Corporation who had apparently been involved in the PCR testing, who would only say that he had withdrawn his name from the work, and wanted nothing to do with it. [See The River, pages 778 and 133-137.]
Later, after The River was published, in which I proposed that OPVs prepared in chimpanzee kidneys might have been used to prepare Koprowski’s vaccines in the Belgian Congo, and might represent the source of the AIDS pandemic, Garry was quick to write to Science, to state that “this assertion is vigorously disputed by Hilary Koprowski and others directly involved in producing the vaccines used in the trials in central Africa in the late 1950s.” [R.F. Garry, “Chimpanzee Kidneys Not Used to Prepare Oral Poliovirus Vaccines”; Science; 2000; 288; 1757-1758.] Koprowski and his colleagues claimed that the Congo vaccines had been prepared in the US. However, their claims have since been contradicted by Belgians and Congolese who were directly involved with preparing these polio vaccines locally in Stanleyville, based on the vaccines that Koprowski had sent out from Philadelphia. These witnesses were interviewed on camera in the award-winning 2003 film documentary “The Origins of AIDS”, and they said that chimp kidney tissue culture had been prepared for many years in Stanleyville, and handed to Paul Osterrieth, the virologist who was preparing the Koprowski polio vaccines in his lab. That chimp kidney cells were being used to prepare the vaccines in Stanleyville was further confirmed by the Belgian technician, Piere Doupagne, when I re-interviewed him 3 weeks before his death in 2008. [See: “The death of a truthful man. Pierre Doupagne, 1923-2008” on this site.]
To sum up, all three men who helped write the Andersen article (Holmes, Rambaut and Garry) have been prominent in the OPV debate, arguing that the OPV theory must be wrong, but doing so on dubious grounds. The fact that they are also Andersen’s co-authors raises questions about their roles in debates about how new diseases get started in Homo sapiens. Science journalist Jon Cohen is another person who has appeared prominently as a sceptic in both debates. It appears possible that these are men who have decided that writing articles such as these, which seek to refute theories that might otherwise cause embarrassment to senior members of the scientific community or to certain powerful governments, is not likely to harm their careers. This hypothesis would be strengthened if other well-known OPV nay-sayers such as Stanley Plotkin, John P. Moore, Michael Worobey, Beatrice Hahn or Paul Sharp were to take up similar positions in the COVID-19 debate.
Now that it is convincingly established that those guys were lying about the origin of Covid, it is important to ask how far back in time the lying goes. That question has important implications, because Ed Hooper challenged the African busmeat theory in his book and argued (based on plenty of evidence) that AIDS originated from oral polio vaccine research gone wrong. We may have a similar case in Wuhan regarding SARS-like coronaviruses.
Here is the good news. Hooper made the electronic copy of his book publicly accessible in his blog. It is definitely worth reading.