Scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology wanted to genetically engineer coronaviruses that were more infectious to humans and then experiment on live bats about 18 months before the first COVID-19 cases emerged — but leaked documents reveal that a US Department of Defence agency rejected the funding proposal.
According to a 2018 proposal submitted to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Wuhan researchers planned to enhance airborne coronaviruses genetically and release aerosols containing “novel chimeric spike proteins” among cave bats in Yunnan, China.
The proposal said the research’s purpose was to assess the risk of coronaviruses, ways to prevent outbreaks, and vaccinate bats against the virus.
EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit led by British scientist Peter Daszak, spearheaded the $14 million proposal. DARPA rejected the effort, citing fears of gain-of-function research.
“It is clear that the proposed project led by Peter Daszak could have put local communities at risk,” DARPA said in its rejection.