NEWS & ANALYSIS

Wuhan Lab Researcher Began Project to Infect ‘Humanized Mice’ With New Bat Coronaviruses in Early 2019


As the search for the origin of COVID19 continues, new questions are being raised about a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology whose research included infecting “humanized mice” with bat coronaviruses.

Recently, a researcher who goes by the pseudonym Billy Bostickson and his colleagues at DRASTIC – Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating Covid-19 – posted a Twitter thread calling for answers about the state-funded project, according to Taiwan News.

The scientist in charge of the project was assistant researcher Hu Ben.

The director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the lab, Shi Zhengli, had been researching how proteins in SARS-like coronaviruses bind to certain receptors in the cells of humans, bats and other animals.

As far back as 2007, the lab reportedly knew how to convert a virus that only infected bats into one that could infect humans. “A series of chimeras was constructed by inserting different sequences of the SARS-CoV S into the SL-CoV S backbone…the chimeric S covering the previously defined receptor-binding domain gained its ability to enter cells via human ACE2.”

According to the reports, the lab used “humanized mice,” meaning the animals had been genetically altered to possess certain human proteins.

In 2018, just before the pandemic rampaged across the globe, Hu was approved to begin working on a project called “Pathogenicity of 2 new bat SARS-related covs to transgenic mice expressing human ACE2.”

According to Bostickson, the research “involved ‘novel’ bat coronaviruses inoculated into immuno-suppressed mice with humanised features,” like cells for “lungs, bone marrow, etc.”

“Such experiments were a recipe for disaster, as we know,” he said.

According to a listing in the Chinese Medical Sciences Journal, the project was scheduled to run from January 2019 to December 2021

Later, the Wuhan Institute of Virology used these same humanized mice with ACE2 receptors to study the COVID19 virus.

While no information about this research has been released to the public, Bostickson called on the lab to provide answers on what happened in 2019. DRASTIC created a petition with 50 key questions about the outbreak, including lack of access to the lab’s database and records, which have been unavailable for consumption since the start of the pandemic.