British scientist Peter Daszak has been removed from the COVID commission looking at the origins of the pandemic after helping secretly denounce the lab leak theory while failing to mention his close ties to the same facility.
The scandal-hit scientist’s departure from the UN-backed Lancet commission into the virus’s origins was revealed on its website.
It added a sentence in brackets under his photo and above his biography, saying ‘recused from Commission work on the origins of the pandemic.’
No further information on Daszak’s departure was given – but he has faced conflict of interest claims after his close ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology were revealed last month.
Daszak, 55, president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, was one of 28 experts from around the world asked to analyze how best to respond to the pandemic.
The panel comprised leading global figures in public health, economics, philanthropy, diplomacy and politics.
It is organized by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which, according to its website, ‘operates under the auspices of the United Nations to mobilize scientific and technical expertise in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.’
On Monday the COVID commission updated their website to show that Daszak was recused
Daszak’s presence on a number of bodies investigating the origins of COVID has proved controversial because he has links to the Wuhan Institute and its chief researcher Dr Shi Zhengli – dubbed ‘Batwoman’.
He helped organize a letter published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet that was signed by 27 scientists, including Daszak himself, and denounced the lab leak claim as a ‘conspiracy theory,’ and ‘nonscientific.’
Daszak has since faced conflict of interest claims over his ties to the lab investigators increasingly believe COVID may have leaked from.
Supporters of the theory say it is too much of a coincidence that the virus emerged in the same Chinese city that houses one of only three labs in the world studying bat coronaviruses, with the other two both based in the United States.
The conservation charity of which Daszak is the director, EcoHealth Alliance, has funneled money into the lab and research being done by Dr Zhengli.
Donald Trump was among the first to point the finger at the Wuhan lab as a source of the outbreak, but his suggestion was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory and a bid to distract from his own handling of the pandemic.
Daszak, a Ukrainian-born British zoologist, was an early voice denouncing ‘lab leak’ theories as ‘conspiracies’ in an open letter published in The Lancet last February – a reaction that has been likened to a cover-up.
They wrote at the time: ‘We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.
‘Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.’
Daszak is seen at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2020. His close ties to the lab, his fierce rejection of the idea that COVID-19 could have escaped from its walls, and his absolute rejection of the ‘lab leak’ theory have raised eyebrows
Daszak talks with the Ramapo police outside his home after DailyMail.com paid him a visit to seek comment
ORIGINS OF COVID-19: THE THEORIES
US state officials have given momentum to the idea that COVID-19 either leaked from a lab or was man-made by China as some kind of weapon against humanity.
A Wuhan wet market was first thought to be the breeding ground of the virus, where the selling of live, wild animals would have given the perfect opportunity for it to naturally spread between species.
It is thought the virus first developed in bats before passing on to a creature such as a pangolin that then came into contact with humans and transmitted the virus.
Once it entered humans, the coronavirus is likely to have mutated to survive and then escalated out of control as a result of an unprepared population.
There are also theories that the virus was genetically engineered by scientists, or that it has actually been around for years and even killed people in the past.
Two high security laboratories in the city – the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology – have been the subject of many conspiracy theories.
President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence the virus, which he solely blames China for, came from Wuhan Institute of Virology – but he is not allowed to reveal it.
The Institute has denied the claims from the early days of the outbreak.
In April, Trump said: ‘We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.’
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed in May there is ‘enormous evidence’ the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but failed to provide any of the alleged evidence.
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, said earlier this month that the Lancet letter was a disgrace.
‘The scientists are tied to this lab,’ Graham said.
‘They were covering their a**. They put out a letter, not based on science, but a political document to trying to destroy people suggesting that it came out of a lab.
‘Why does this matter? If Trump was right about the lab leak it would change the image the public had of Trump regarding the coronavirus.
‘More importantly, if it came out of the lab in China, he was right it was the China virus, and the 2020 election would have been about who could hold China accountable, Trump or Biden.’
When DailyMail.com contacted The Lancet’s editor, Dr Richard Horton, about the decision to publish and support the letter, both he and his office declined to comment.
Earlier this month one of the original authors of the controversial Lancet letter said he had changed his stance on whether the lab leak was possible.
Dr Peter Palese, a microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, signed the letter in the Lancet in February last year claiming the virus could only have been natural in origin and to suggest otherwise would create ‘fear, rumors, and prejudice’.
The ‘bullying’ letter, orchestrated by Daszak was criticized by experts for ostracizing anyone offering different opinions on the virus’ origins, dismissing them as conspiracy theorists.
It is only now, nearly 16 months after that letter was published in the world-renowned medical journal, that the theory COVID was accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan is being looked at seriously.
President Joe Biden ordered intelligence agencies to launch a probe into whether COVID was man-made after all. But China immediately hit back and called the suggestion a ‘conspiracy’.
Professor Palese, 77, made a significant U-turn, admitting all theories on how COVID came about now need proper investigating.
He told MailOnline: ‘I believe a thorough investigation about the origin of the Covid-19 virus is needed.
‘A lot of disturbing information has surfaced since the Lancet letter I signed, so I want to see answers covering all questions.’
Asked how he was originally approached to sign the letter and what new information had come to light specifically, Professor Palese declined to comment.
Professor Palese spoke out as America’s leading pandemic expert Anthony Fauci continued to face fevered calls to resign after emails revealed that leading virus experts warned COVID could be man-made – even as he downplayed the possibility.
The emails also showed he communicated with Daszak.
Biden threw his support behind the embattled expert, saying: ‘Yes I’m very confident in Dr Fauci.’
Another scientist who signed the letter, Dr Jeremy Farrar – director of the Wellcome Trust in London – declined to comment on the Fauci allegations but said it remains ‘most likely’ the virus came from an animal but ‘there are other possibilities which cannot be completely ruled out and retaining an open mind is critical’.
Nevertheless, Daszak has remained staunch in his opinion that COVID originated in animals – most likely a bat – and then passed through an intermediary into people.
Daszak is seen on February 3 arriving at the Wuhan lab as part of a World Health Organization team to inspect the facility
Daszak was part of a group of scientists who in late January traveled to the Wuhan lab on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) to explore how the virus originated. The visit was documented by 60 Minutes.
The WHO report that he helped to author described animals as the ‘most likely’ source of the pandemic, and called for further investigation into it.
Suggestions that the virus leaked from any of the labs in Wuhan – including the Institute of Virology – were dismissed as ‘extremely unlikely’.
Yet it later emerged that the WHO team was only given three hours in the lab and were not given access to all the documentation they needed – further darkening the cloud of suspicion about a ‘whitewash’.
In April the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent Daszak 34 questions about his involvement with the lab.
Despite a deadline of May 17, Daszak failed to respond, a source close to the committee told DailyMail.com.
The questions were about his charity, its federal funding which went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China, and the work the U.S. nonprofit did with the Chinese lab.
Daszak – who last year earned more than $410,000 – lives with his immunologist wife Janet Cottingham in a five-bed, five-bath home in an affluent town in Rockland County, New York, 30 miles northwest of Manhattan. They bought the house, set on two acres of land, for a bargain $665,000 in 2015. It is now estimated to be worth around $1 million.
Rather than respond to the allegations that he ‘bullied’ other scientists into signing off on The Lancet letter – and that his ties to the lab led to such a conflict of interest that he should never have sat on two panels investigating the cause of COVID-19 – he told a DailyMail.com reporter: ‘You need to remove your car from our drive right now, leave the area and never come back.
‘Goodbye, I have no comment,’ he added.
DailyMaill.com spotted Dr. Peter Daszak outside of his million dollar home in the affluent neighborhood in Rockland County, New York in early June
Daszak — who last year earned more than $410,000 — lives with his immunologist wife Janet Cottingham in a five-bed, five-bath home 30 miles northwest of Manhattan
Wearing a blue polo shirt, shorts and sandals, he went on to the porch of the house overlooking the Ramapo Mountains, sat down and started waving his arms around in apparent anger as he had an animated conversation on his phone
Rather than respond to the allegations that his letter ‘bullied’ other scientists and that his ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology led to such a conflict of interest that he should never have sat on two panels investigating the cause of Covid-19, he told a DailyMail.com reporter: ‘You need to remove your car from our drive right now, leave the area and never come back’
Minutes later, wearing a blue polo shirt, shorts and sandals, he went on to the porch of the house overlooking the Ramapo Mountains, sat down and started waving his arms around in apparent anger as he had an animated conversation on his phone.
Soon afterwards, three police cruisers turned up at his house.
The Republican minority group of the committee launched an investigation in March into the origins of Covid-19 after a growing number of prominent scientists began voicing their concerns that the deadly virus may have escaped from the lab – and could even have been created there.
Daszak and other EcoHealth scientists have been closely involved with the Wuhan lab for years, which was also conducting ‘gain of function’ experiments, where viruses are genetically engineered to be more infectious to test their effects on human cells.
In its April 16 letter, the congressional committee asked Daszak to provide details of what federal funds were passed on to the WIV, what information they have on bat viruses worked on at the lab that are closely related to Covid-19, and what his charity knows about a mysterious database of virus genomes held by the lab taken offline in 2019.
‘Total silence. They seem to be refusing to acknowledge anything from us,’ the source said.
‘At least when we send a letter to a government agency we get a ‘we got your letter, we’re working on it’ kind of thing. But from Eco? Zip.
‘We would like them to cooperate with us and give us answers. We’re not going out of our way to try to burn them. We just want answers on some of this stuff.
‘They’re the group that’s been tied in with the WIV, and would have a lot of these answers, hopefully that would help out. But they refuse to be involved in that at all.’