US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been blaming China for the pandemic for the past few months that if the virus is natural then it must have leaked out of a Chinese government lab. However, Beijing denied all these allegations.
Besides the blame game, an American researcher had his grant terminated crippling his research on Coronavirus and to find a cure for the COVID-19 that affected over four million people globally and killed more than 79,000 Americans.
The Coronavirus researcher: Was he the first to predict the pandemic?
Peter Daszak is a British-born American scientist who spent his whole career discovering dangerous viruses in wildlife as well as in bats. As per a show 60 Minutes in 2003, he warned about an upcoming pandemic. At that time during an interview, he said:
"What worries me the most is that we are going to miss the next emerging disease, that we're suddenly going to find a SARS virus that moves from one part of the planet to another, wiping out people as it moves along."
Later, he became the president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance which is a nonprofit research organization that focuses on understanding where the pandemics come from, the risk factors and when a pandemic will emerge. It should be noted that this organization had worked within China for 15 years along with the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology. During the collaborated research, they have studied hundreds of bat viruses.
Daszak revealed that the promising drug for novel Coronavirus, Remdesivir, was tested against the viruses discovered by the joint collaboration between the Wuhan lab and EcoHealth under their US National Institutes of Health research funding. But almost two weeks ago the US government cancelled the funding.
Earlier, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz said that the Wuhan lab has "birthed a monster." During "Tucker Carlson Tonight" Gaetz, a vigorous defender of the president Trump, claimed that NIH has given $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan lab and then they advertised that they need Coronavirus researchers. But the fact is, there was no $3.7 million, granted to the Chinese facility, as the fund was for Daszak's US-based EcoHealth for disease prevention.
Collaboration with Wuhan lab
Daszak said that it is impossible to show up in China and tell the authorities, "Hi, I wanna work on your viruses." So how the collaboration happened? It was pre-approved by NIH which is responsible for the approving people who can work within China. He said:
"The idea is that we know that viruses that affect people and pandemics tend to come from wildlife. So, our strategy is to go to the wildlife source, find out where the viruses are, and try and shift behaviours like hunting and killing wildlife that would lead to the next outbreak. We also get the information into vaccine and drug developers so they can design better drugs."
In 2018 after the visit in the Wuhan lab, the team from the US embassy sent diplomatic cables to Washington, concerned that one lab in the complex had a serious shortage of trained investigators. One week after this report released, EcoHealth's work with Wuhan ended as NIH revoked the grant. As per Daszak, they said that the fund was cancelled "for convenience and it doesn't fit within the scope of NIH's priorities right now."
A PhD in epidemiology at Columbia University, Maureen Miller who has collaborated with EcoHealth and Wuhan lab said, "It stops the research that's essential to understanding where pandemics like the one we're going through, where they start."
However, as per CBS News, the NIH stated that it demonstrates the highest level of scientific integrity and public accountability but they did not specify why the grant was cancelled or whether anything like it had happened before.