The Sun Online can reveal the closely guarded cache of information is believed to include unpublished samples of data on new viruses and hidden bat collection sties.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has been at the center of a storm ever since the virus first emerged just a stone’s throw from the facility which was known to be studying very similar bat viruses.
Most of WIV’s databases were once accessible online – but have since all been taken systematically taken offline by China.
And it is believed one of the data files – which was password protected before being taken down – could be holding information on new viruses.
World Health Organization investigators however all but dismissed the lab leak in a joint press conference with their Chinese counterparts – an event which was branded as a “whitewash”.
Gilles Demaneuf, a data analyst from DRASTIC, an international team of scientists and sleuths attempting to fill in the gaps on Covid’s origins, compiled a 25-page report on the WIV databases.
He told The Sun Online he considers it definitive proof of a “deliberate attempt” at a cover up by China.
Along with the password protected data, which was hidden to everyone outside of WIV, research by the team found at least 15 virus databases managed by the lab have been mysteriously taken offline.
The team found the databases through analysis of cached online evidence.
“The removal of access to basically all the virus databases of the WIV – around 15 of them – cannot be described as anything other than a deliberate attempt to prevent a proper investigation based on facts and hard data.” Mr. Demaneuf told The Sun Online.
WIV has previously insisted any data removed from their online archives was done so due to fear of cyber attacks.
US intelligence officials continue to push the accidental lab leak theory – and recent report by NBC even cited the missing databases as a key part of the puzzle.
The administrator of the data is believed to be Dr Shi Zhengli, known as China’s Bat Woman, the head coronavirus research at WIV, and the main database in question is named “batvirus.whiov.ac.cn”.
The database is understood to have held 22,000 samples and virus sequences, including 15,000 from bats, and covered 1,400 bat viruses.
However, a section of this database was locked to anyone outside of the WIV – even other Chinese scientists – and any attempt to access it demanded identity verification and authentication.
Who are DRASTIC?
DRASTIC is an independent team of scientists, analysts and sleuths who have come together to investigate the origins of Covid-19.
Many of its members opt to remain anonymous to protect themselves from possible reprisals and so they can carry out the potentially controversial research without impacting their careers.
It is said to include specialists in engineering, mathematics, biology, open source intelligence and data – and was brought together via Twitter.
Over one year on questions still loom over the origins of Covid, in what is becoming an increasingly political fight amid questions of bias on both sides.
Gilles Demaneuf, a data scientist, from New Zealand, told The Sun Online: “As nobody else was researching SARS-CoV-2 in such a way, especially back in early 2020, we basically did it ourselves.
“We are science-based and do not bend to any pressure.
“We are not hierarchical, we challenge each other regularly and can be irreverent at times, especially with scientists who for some reason seem particularly certain about a specific origin but cannot line up proper arguments.”
And while he admits their work can only go so far using the tools at their disposal, it is hoped their efforts can shine a light on the real origins of Covid-19.
The exact contents of the locked database is unknown, but it is believed to have included samples of viruses which had not yet been sequenced or were not ready for publication.
It is also understood to include data from sites which WIV wanted to keep secret – possibly to stop competition with other labs.
Database “batvirus.whiov.ac.cn” went offline for the first time in September 2019 and has not been accessible since then for anyone outside of WIV.
The database and its description are known to have been updated on December 30 – the exact same day that Chinese scientists claim to have identified the new virus.
DRASTIC’s report estimates it contains at least 100 unpublished sequences of bat coronaviruses – which they have deduced from studying WIV’s research papers.
It is also believed to include samples which were collected as part of WIV’s working relationship with WHO investigator Peter Daszak’s Eco Health Alliance – which was funded by a $3.6million grant from the US.
Mr. Demaneuf told The Sun Online: “WIV has alleged that it had to remove access to the DBs for security reasons, because they had supposedly been targeted by hackers.
“That excuse is simply ridiculous: China, with all its technology, should have no difficulty whatsoever giving access to these DBs from a safe server – saying otherwise is pure fantasy.
“In any case the main DB, http://batvirus.whiov.ac.cn, could easily fit on a USB key that could have been given to investigators.”
While it appears China is attempting to cover up the origins to Covid, he explained his main worry is that the world is “too ready to let them get away with it without hardly saying a word”.
“Let’s be clear, this is not about punishing anybody or taking a political stance,” Mr. Demaneuf told The Sun Online.
“This is about learning from our collective mistakes so as to make sure that we have a good handle on the risk of the type of experiments that were done in Wuhan labs.
“And this is also about truth, because our institutions rely on truth to remain healthy.”
Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a WHO advisor, told The Sun Online: “The WIV databases are absolutely critical to understanding the origins of the pandemic.
“It is unconscionable that the Chinese government shut off access to these databases just after the outbreak and has still not made them fully available.
“This seems not the behavior of a government wanting the world to know how this catastrophe began, but of one doing all it can to cover something up.
What do we know about the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
THE WUHAN Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the global pandemic.
Various theories have been swirling about the lab, which is headed up by Chinese scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.
Most scientists do not believe the virus leaked from the lab, and the lab itself has categorically denied the claims.
The lab specialized in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.
Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the lab – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).
BSL-4 labs are the only places in the world where scientists can study diseases that have no cure.
Scientists from the lab even tested mysterious
virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.
It has been suggested this fatal mystery bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.
Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid ‘super-virus’ that can infect humans in 2015, according to medical journal Nature Medicine
Despite fears surrounding the research, the study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.
There is no suggestion the facility’s 2015 work is linked to the pandemic.
The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.
China has began tightening security around its biolabs with President Xi Jinping saying it was a “national security” issue to improve scientific safety at a meeting last February.
US intelligence officials have insisted for the past year that they have compelling evidence that the virus which has killed 2.5million people may have escaped from WIV.
Relations between the US and China remain strained as President Joe Biden’s administration has refused to accept findings from WHO over Covid’s origins.
China and the lab have always furiously denied any allegations of a possible leak, and WHO appeared to agree with them as they wrapped up their probe in Wuhan.
However, the White House has said it has “deep concerns” over the investigation which was carried out in a tightly managed fashion alongside China.