richard h ebright
© Rutgers New BrunswickRichard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, says there is enough evidence to suggest the pandemic was man-made.
COVID-19 may have been created in a Chinese lab, a British professor told the UN Wednesday, with another expert claiming that evidence of the likelihood has reached "the level of a smoking gun."

Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, was quoted saying in a new Wall Street Journal article that the virus that killed millions around the world may actually have been man-made in China's Wuhan Institute of Virology.

He cited evidence found in a 2018 document from the lab that talked of making such a virus.

"[The document] elevates the evidence provided by the genome sequence from the level of noteworthy to the level of a smoking gun," Ebright said in the piece by former New York Times editor Nicholas Wade.

The papers from the lab cited by Ebright contained drafts and notes regarding a grant proposal called Project DEFUSE, which sought to test engineering bat coronaviruses in a way that would make them more easily transmissible to humans.

The proposal was ultimately rejected and denied funding by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but Wade suggested that their work could have been carried out by researchers in Wuhan who had secured Chinese government funding.

"Viruses made according to the DEFUSE protocol could have been available by the time Covid-19 broke out, sometime between August and November 2019," wrote Wade, a former science editor of the New York Times.

"This would account for the otherwise unexplained timing of the pandemic along with its place of origin."

Along with the research notes, Wade claimed the specific genetic structure of the coronavirus that allowed it to infect humans served as another strong indication of "the virus's laboratory birth."

"Whereas most viruses require repeated tries to switch from an animal host to people, SARS-CoV-2 infected humans out of the box, as if it had been preadapted while growing in the humanized mice called for in the DEFUSE protocol," Wade wrote.

While scientists continue to debate whether the coronavirus pandemic was a natural occurrence or manmade, Ebright believed there was credibility that the work proposed by the now-controversial EcoHealth Alliance led to the development COVID-19.

Following the release of the 2018 documents — which were published by US Right to Know through a Freedom of Information Act request — Ebright said there was clearer evidence that the virus was manufactured in a lab, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The 2018 documents contained drafts and notes regarding Project DEFUSE and how to synthesize bat coronaviruses to make them more transmissible.

The researchers proposed introducing "appropriate human-specific cleavage sites" to the spike proteins of SARS-related viruses in the lab, the same method several biologists have said could have been used to synthesize the coronavirus that led to the pandemic.

According to the documents, the researchers had planned to conduct a portion of the research at the Wuhan lab where they noted that safety conditions were not up to US standards, to the point where they claimed American scientists would "likely freak out."

A spokesperson for EcoHealth Alliance said its research played no role in the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Documents representing incomplete or early drafts of the proposal have been acquired via the Freedom of Information Act and published along with allegations regarding their intent. These allegations are false, based on misunderstanding of edits and comments on the document, and based on misleading out-of-context quotations, and a lack of understanding of the process by which federal grants are awarded," the spokesperson said.

"Because the work was not selected for funding, any assertions about these details are by definition based on review of incomplete information and are extremely misleading."

While COVID-19's origins remain a mystery, Dr. Filippa Lentzos, an associate professor of science and international security at King's College London, said the world needed to acknowledge that the possibility exists that the virus was synthesized.

Speaking before the UN in New York on Wednesday, Lentzos presented the work of the Independent Task Force on Research with Pandemic Risks, which calls on scientists the world over to follow stricter regulations lest another worldwide breakout occur, the Telegraph reported.

"We have to acknowledge the fact that the pandemic could have started from some research-related incident," Lentzos said.

"Are we going to find that out? In my view, I think it's very unlikely that we will. We need to do better in the future," she added.

"We are going to see more ambiguous events."