Apr. 18, 2020

Chinese scientists implicated in virus research in Canada, U.S.

Whenever a major event happens a lot of misinformation surfaces. There are a lot of theories about coronavirus. I have compiled a number of articles from mainstream news media for your information. A number of these reports began last summer, prior to COVID-19.

January 2020 - The US has charged a Harvard professor and two Chinese researchers based in Boston with assisting the Chinese government. 

Harvard department chair Charles Lieber is accused of lying about his connections, while the researchers were charged with being foreign agents.  Lieber allegedly accepted more than $1m in grant money from the Chinese government.

Prosecutors said Yanqing Ye, a Boston University robotics researcher, concealed the fact that she was in the Chinese army. Ms Ye is accused of falsely identifying herself as a student and also continuing to work for the People's Liberation Army, while completing a number of assignments in the US. 

Cancer researcher Zaosong Zheng was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport with 21 vials of biological samples in his bag. Prosecutors allege he was planning to return to China to continue his research there. MORE 

CBC, Oct 2019 – A Canadian government scientist at the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg made at least five trips to China in 2017-18, including one to train scientists and technicians at China's newly certified Level 4 lab, which does research with the most deadly pathogens, according to travel documents obtained by CBC News.

Xiangguo Qiu — who was escorted out of the Winnipeg lab in July amid an RCMP investigation into what's being described by Public Health Agency of Canada as a possible "policy breach" — was invited to go to the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences twice a year for two years, for up to two weeks each time. More

CBC, January 2020 – The Public Health Agency of Canada is denying any connection between the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, two scientists who were escorted out of the building last summer, and the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Stories claiming that the two scientists are Chinese spies and that they smuggled the coronavirus to China's only Level 4 lab in Wuhan last year have been spreading on all major social media platforms and on conspiracy theorist blogs.  MORE 

Science Magazine, July 2020 – Canadian researchers are reacting with puzzlement to the news that a “policy breach” has caused the nation’s only high-containment disease laboratory to bar a prominent Chinese Canadian virologist, her biologist husband, and a number of students from the facility.

On 5 July, officials at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg, escorted Xiangguo Qiu, biologist Keding Cheng, and an unknown number of her students from the lab and revoked their access rights, according to Canadian media reports. The Public Health Agency of Canada, which operates the lab, confirmed it had referred an “administrative matter” matter to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but said it would not provide additional details because of privacy concerns. MORE

The Scientist Aug. 2019 – Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory shipped Ebola and Henipah viruses to Beijing on March 31, raising suspicions from experts in biochemical warfare, who say they think China may use the pathogens to develop offensive biological agents. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report that the incident has not introduced any known risk to public health, according to the Winnipeg Free Press

The same lab is the focus of an ongoing investigation by the RCMP. The inquiry began following the recent dismissal of the head of the National Microbiology Laboratory’s (NML) Vaccine Development and Antiviral Therapies section in the Special Pathogens Program, virologist Xiangguo Qiu. Qiu, her colleague and husband Keding Cheng, and a number of her international students lost security clearance to their lab on July 5.  More 

CTV News, Feb 2020 – BEIJING -- Scientists in the city at the centre of China's virus outbreak have applied to patent a drug made by U.S. company Gilead Sciences Inc. to treat the disease, possibly fueling conflict over technology policy that helped trigger Washington's tariff war with Beijing.

The government-run Wuhan Institute of Virology said this week it applied for the patent in January along with a military laboratory. An institute statement acknowledged there are "intellectual property barriers" but said it acted to "protect national interests."

Granting its own scientists a patent might give the Chinese government leverage in negotiations over paying for the drug. But it also might fuel complaints Beijing abuses its regulatory system to pressure foreign companies to hand over valuable technology.

On Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency said clinical trials of the drug, remdesivir, were due to start.

Gilead, headquartered in Foster City, California, said it applied in 2016 for a Chinese patent on use of remdesivir against coronaviruses and is waiting for a decision. The coronavirus family includes the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, blamed for the outbreak in Wuhan.

The institute said its application was filed Jan. 21. Two days later, Chinese authorities suspended most access to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. That lockdown has expanded to surrounding cities and some in other provinces, isolating a total of about 60 million people in the most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed. MORE