Back in mid-February, when the world was still counting COVID-19 deaths in the hundreds and almost all the deaths were still in China, a letter signed by Daszak and 26 co-signatories was published in The Lancet, condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin”. An article in Science explained that the signatories were “pushing back against a steady stream of stories and even a scientific paper suggesting a laboratory in Wuhan, China, may be the origin of the outbreak of COVID-19”.
The signatories all declared they had “no competing interests” – but that certainly wasn’t true in the case of Peter Daszak. Daszak is the founder and President of EcoHealth Alliance, a US non-profit that among other things has been a conduit for US funding for research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including the gain-of-function research banned in the US from 2014-2017. Gain-of-function research seeks to study viruses by making them more virulent or transmissible, but has come under heavy scientific criticism for risking creating pandemics via leaks from the labs where it is carried out.
When Daszak similarly told the Washington Post, “I have no conflicts of interest,” Richard Ebright pointed out that Daszak was Project Leader on a $3.7 million “grant supporting bat coronavirus surveillance at Wuhan Institute of Virology and … bat coronavirus gain-of-function research at Wuhan Institute of Virology. If that is not a material conflict of interest,” Ebright tweeted, “then nothing is.”