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1/ I just want to quickly address here the recent drop of unredacted emails by @JamesCTobias:

2/ There have been many arguments about the redacted emails, not all of which were most useful.

Now that we have these emails in full, it seems to me that one key aspect is still not properly being discussed.
3/ The key problem which is now very clear is that the Proximal Origin team fundamentally changed their analysis by believing too eagerly in some eventually debunked pangolin data.

Data announced on Feb, 7 by South China Agricultural University.

4/ Immediately following that announcement and its (false) 99% claims of SARS-CoV-2 similitude, Holmes and his PO co-authors jumped on the promised new pangolin data as the missing link, the final proof of a purely natural origin.
5/ A 99% similitude claim meant that there was likely some form of FCS in these pangolin sequences, or at least some easy evolutionary path to it.

These pangolins 'findings' were amplified by Andersen (of Proximal Origin) in Nature on the very same day:
www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00364-2/
6/ Other ardent zoonosis zealots of the 100% vantage, such as this funny fellow, jumped on the delusional bandwagon and are now working hard to distract from the actual significance of these emails:
7/ Going back to the unredacted emails, you can follow all the excitement caused by the (false) pangolin claims amongst the Proximal Origin team:

Just a few examples:
8/ Here is where it went all wrong:

Out was the very valid passaging hypothesis that the Proximal Origin (PO) team was still strongly considering up to 7 Feb, following the Farrar-Fauci call:
9/ All of which had resulted in a rather fair initial draft of Proximal Origin up to that point, which mentioned the real possibility of SARS-CoV-2 being a virus passaged in a lab:
10/ In, instead, was the new converts' renunciation of any possible lab origin, including passaging, based on the false pangolin claims of the 7 Feb.
11/ The pangolins were indeed promptly included in the evaluation of each of the 3 hypotheses, and used to exclude serial passaging (the 3rd option).

A total difference from the earlier, much more careful, draft of PO.

12/ This is all the more disturbing that the unredacted emails also show how much convinced the PO team was of the real possibility of passaging prior up to 7 Feb at least), with some good detailed analysis:
13/ Also here:
14/ And, much worse, people like Ian Lipkin were still arguing by 11 Feb that serial passaging was a very valid hypothesis when the PO draft had already been changed to exclude it.

Were they just looking for an excuse to kick out the lab hypothesis?


15/ The unredacted emails may help answer that one too:

Andersen:
“Our main work over the last couple of weeks has been focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory”
16/ Drosten:

“Didn’t we congregate to challenge a certain theory, and if we could, drop it?"

"Are we working on debunking our own conspiracy theory?”
17/ Moving on, the actual weak pangolin sequences from SCAU were then released on 20 Feb, just after the draft of Proximal Origin and the Lancet letter were published (16 and 18 Feb).

And these sequences showed that it was just hot air.

18/ But the fake pangolin claims had done their job in the meantime.

Also as I pointed before, timing matters.
A lot here.

19/ Maybe SCAU learnt via contacts that the US side was after new data (see the OSTP demand above), and then tried to help by announcing their pangolin findings in that very mediatic conference on 7 Feb.

That could explain how the data dropped just at the right time.
20/ It is a bit more difficult to explain away the timing of the releases of the PO draft (17 Feb), the Lancet letter (19 Feb) and the SCAU preprint (20 Feb) with its deflated pangolin claims.


21/ First, we would expect that the US side would have contacted SCAU following the OSTP demand and 99% claims.

I understand that Holmes contacted the SCAU team on 7 Feb to ask about a possible FCS.

If SCAU told him about the sequences, he should have been much more careful.
22/ If the SCAU team didn't, this should have raised some red flag.

Also, if the PO / Lancet teams knew that the SCAU preprint was coming after Holmes contacted SCAU, they should have waited for it to be released first so as to check the pangolin claims.


23/ Waiting just three days before pushing PO on virological .org (from 17 Feb to 20 Feb) would have let the PO team check the validity of their argument.


24/ Waiting just one day (19 Feb to 20 Feb) before publishing the Lancet letter would have let Daszak check the key pangolin claims that was the central argument for rejecting passaging as a plausible origin in PO.

Wait to check, nobody did.

25/ Interestingly, SCAU sent their preprint to BioRXiv on 17 Feb, just when Rambaut was releasing Proximal Origin on virological .org.

Did SCAU tell the PO team that they were going to soon release their preprint?


26/ Did the PO team then decide to jump ahead of the BioRXiv release on 20 Feb?

What is sure:
- If the PO team had checked the SCAU sequences (after Holmes contacted them), they should not have excluded passaging.
- If the PO team had not checked them, they should have waited.
27/ What we know for sure is that they did not wait to check the sequences to start changing the PO draft on 8 Feb, immediately after the SCAU conf call of 7 Feb:
28/ Nor did they have the sequence by the 10 Feb - and they did not seem too positive about getting them:
29/ But maybe we should lower our expectations:

On 21 Feb Susan Weiss was expressing huge doubts about a natural origin following the release of the SCAU preprint, while authoring a paper denouncing any non-natural origin as a conspiracy theory:


30/ A paper that she signed. Just as Linda Saif, who is a Lancet letter signatories with Farrar.

So one may wonder who knew what, who asked what, who told whom what.
And why so many scientists seem happy to sign something while missing key data and while thinking something else.
31/ I hope you've found this thread helpful.

Follow me @gdemaneuf for more.

Like/Retweet the first tweet below if you can:


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Vital thread explaining how false presumption about the pangolin red herring was used to kill the lab leak idea. As one who was duped at the time by virologists I find this trail of emails infuriating to read.