Exiled Chinese biologist Dr. Li-Meng Yan claims to have evidence that Covid-19 is a man-made disaster. Biologist Bret Weinstein says the virus is far too adapted for humans. Is there any truth to these claims and can we ever know the true origins?
By Michael Dundrea
In this age of widespread misinformation and conspiracy theories, it’s difficult to discern the truth. During a pandemic, the truth is more important than ever because lives are on the line. COVID-19, unfortunately, is a subject ripe for conmen to take advantage of well-meaning people because the science is incredibly complicated to understand so most people must have it explained to them by someone else.
Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a Chinese virologist who fled Hong Kong to tell British and U.S. media about COVD-19’s supposed lab origins, caused a lot of controversy in social media this week after she appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, claiming that the release of the virus was intentional. However, after digging into Dr. Li-Meng Yan’s background, other evidence calls into question her authority and intentions. According to Newsweek, Dr. Li-Meng Yan’s authored paper, which was not put through the rigorous peer review required to publish in scientific journals, was written by her and three other colleagues affiliated with the Rule of Law Society, a group founded by Stephen K. Bannon, former Trump advisor who is currently awaiting trial for defrauding donors out of millions of dollars. Dr. Yan’s connection to the alt-right begs the question: Is this a case of Bannon paying off a rightwing conspiracy nutjob on the level of QAnon and Flat Earthers in order to legitimize Trump’s ongoing feud with China and help him win reelection next month? Or is there a kernel truth in what she claims?
The paper Dr. Li-Meng Yan co-authored was titled, titled “Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route,” and it relies on unproven and discredited theories virologists claim. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has previously said that he believes COVID-19 occurred naturally. As reported by National Geographic, Fauci stated, “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” This is the current most widely-accepted viewpoint throughout the scientific community.
According to, Kristian Andersen, a computational biologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California and co-author of a paper that received widespread acclaim in Nature Medicine, explained to National Geographic, “…the novel coronavirus carries subtle flaws indicative of natural selection. For instance, coronaviruses use what are known as spike proteins, which look like heads of broccoli, to bind and access cellular “doorways” called receptors. It’s how the viruses infect animal cells. Experiments have shown that the novel coronavirus strongly binds with a human receptor called ACE2, but the interaction isn’t optimal.” However, just because the interaction between the coronavirus and the human receptor isn’t optimal, does that mean it couldn’t have been created in a lab? Is there any scientific basis to rule out a lab-creation theory? Not according to Yuri Deigin who is not a virologist but a serial biotech entrepreneur, longevity research evangelist and activist, and a cryonics advocate. He wrote an article in Medium in April, debating the merits of the conclusions articulated in Nature Medicine, relating his frustration with the scientific community for outright dismissing that COVD-19 could have been made in a lab and could have escaped in an unintentional lab leak. He is skeptical that the scientific community is not willing to consider the lab leak scenario even though there is no biological evidence that can completely dismiss this hypothesis. After going through the science, he concludes, “Until intermediate ancestors between RaTG13, pangolin-2019 and CoV2 are found, in whom we could trace the mosaic recombination that we observe in CoV2, the question of its origins remains open.” Basically, he’s saying there is not enough evidence either way to confirm this was created in a lab or to dispel it.
Bret Weinstein, American biologist and podcaster, interviewed Yuri Deigin on his podcast, DarkHorse Podcast, and discussed his Medium article. He cites more circumstantial evidence that is suspicious to say the least. One of Bret’s points for the lab-creation theory is that the outbreak can be traced back to Wuhan which also happens to be the location of one of only two labs in all of China that is dedicated to studying these types of coronaviruses. He also claims that China now says it was not from the Wuhan market and that the bats in the area were hibernating at the time when the virus arrived, dispelling the wet market theory. He argues that the virus arrived so well-adapted for humans and that there is no evidence that it had a “stumbling around phase” between being transmittable to animals and making the jump to humans.
Again, both Deigin and Weinstein cannot rule out that COVID-19 could have occurred naturally, there is simply not enough evidence at this time to either confirm or deny scientifically the lab-creation or the nature theories. The fact that the lab that researches these types of viruses is in Wuhan where the outbreak occurred is deeply suspicious, but not proof. For now, we will have to wait until further scientific evidence comes to light in order to be absolutely sure of COVID-19’s mysterious origins.