A Chinese researcher had isolated and mapped out COVID-19 — and uploaded it to a US-run database — at least two weeks before Beijing officially unveiled details of the virus that would go on to claim more than 3 million lives worldwide in its first year, according to bombshell new documents.
The documents, obtained from the US Department of Health and Human Services by House Republicans and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, show that virologist Dr. Lili Ren uploaded nearly the entire sequence of COVID-19’s structure to a US government-run database on Dec. 28, 2019.
Her work was nearly identical to what Beijing eventually presented to the World Health Organization on January 11, 2020, when the virus had already spread across the world, according to the documents obtained by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The extra two weeks could have proven pivotal to the global response to the pandemic and the development of COVID-19 vaccines as scientists were racing to understand the virus in late 2019 and early 2020.
Scientists at the the Institute of Pathogen Biology in the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences study the coronavirus in February 2020. REUTERS
Ren, of the Institute of Pathogen Biology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, attempted to publish information on the virus to GenBank, which is operated by the US National Institutes of Health.
Her work, however, was never uploaded but rather deleted after she failed to respond to technical issues with her submission — issues that did not pertain to the science backing her work, the documents state.
Ren is also notably a sub-grantee of the controversial non-profit EcoHealth Alliance.
The New York-based organization was on the same National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) grant given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has now been barred from receiving US funding for the next 10 years over evidence that the pandemic leaked from a Chinese lab.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was the director of NIAID during the pandemic and has received widespread criticism over his handling of the crisis. He retired in December 2022.
Ren did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on her deleted submission to GenBank.
The complete sequence of the virus that China presented in January was identical to the work Dr. Lili Ren’s deleted work in December. Getty Images/iStockphoto
The documents revealing the early COVID-19 sequencing were released after the House Energy and Commerce Committee threatened to subpoena the Department of Health and Human Services.
The House committee noted that Ren’s case is the earliest known instance of a Chinese researcher’s early work on COVID sequencing being deleted after having been submitted to GenBank, suggesting repeated interference from Beijing.
Committee Chairs Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA) said the incident highlights the need to probe further into what Chinese and US health officials knew in the early days of the pandemic.
“This significant discovery further underscores why we cannot trust any of the so-called ‘facts’ or data provided by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] and calls into serious question the legitimacy of any scientific theories based on such information,” the reps said in a statement.
“The American people deserve to know the truth about the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and our investigation has uncovered numerous causes for concern, including how taxpayers’ dollars are spent, how our government’s public health agencies operate, and the need for more oversight into research grants to foreign scientists,” they added.
Medical workers struggled to treat early patients at the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, China. REUTERS
The Chinese Embassy did not comment on the incident but defended China’s response to the pandemic and the information it presented to the world.
“China has kept refining our COVID response based on science to make it more targeted,” an embassy spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
“China’s COVID response policies are science-based, effective, and consistent with China’s national realities. They can stand the test of history.”