More than 1,700 people have signed a petition calling for the retraction of the seminal scientific correspondence paper, “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” that claimed COVID-19 was “not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”
The paper — sometimes referred to as the “Proximal Origins” paper or the “Nature Medicine paper” — was published March 17, 2020, in Nature Medicine journal.
It was used by former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, former National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, and other federal public health officials in 2020 and beyond to dismiss the possibility of a lab leak.
Biosafety Now — a nongovernmental organization that “advocates for reducing numbers of high-level biocontainment laboratories and for strengthening biosafety, biosecurity, and biorisk management for research on pathogens” — on July 19 launched the petition, stating, “It is imperative that this clearly fraudulent and clearly damaging paper be removed from the scientific literature.”
Biosafety’s leadership team includes 27 experts in biomedicine, mathematics, public health, public policy, public advocacy, law and social science.
Fraudulent paper ‘played an influential role’ in driving official narrative
Bryce Nickels, Ph.D., co-founder of Biosafety Now and professor of genetics at Rutgers University, said the petition seeks “to expose a clear case of scientific fraud and misconduct that has had a major impact on public opinion and policy.”
Nickels told The Defender:
“The removal of ‘Proximal Origins’ from the scientific literature is the first step in a long process needed to repair the damage this paper has caused to public trust in science.”
According to the petition, “This paper played an influential role — indeed, the central role — in communicating the false narrative that science established that SARS-CoV-2 entered humans through natural spillover, and not through research-related spillover.”
The petition continues:
“Email messages and direct messages via the messaging program Slack among authors of the paper obtained under FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] or by the U.S. Congress and publicly released in full in July 2023 … show, incontrovertibly, that the authors did not believe the conclusions of the paper at the time the paper was written, at the time the paper was submitted for publication, and at the time the paper was published.”
The recently-released internal communications show the paper “was, and is, the product of scientific fraud and scientific misconduct,” the petition said.
Commenting on the petition, investigative journalist Paul Thacker said:
“The thing that’s really the most troubling, which is why it should be retracted … [is] the ghostwriting and the undue influence [of federal public health officials on the drafting of the paper], which we know from the emails by Francis Collins, by Anthony Fauci, and from Jeremy Farrar.”
“These guys basically ordered up a piece of science — or some sort of publication — that they could then point to, which they all did afterwards, as definitive proof that this thing could not have come from the lab.
“The whole thing was orchestrated for political purposes. It has nothing to do with science.”…