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Reviews of "Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route"

This manuscript does not demonstrate sufficient scientific evidence to support its claims. Claims are at times baseless and are not supported by the data and methods used. Decision-makers should consider the author's claims in this study misleading.

Published onSep 25, 2020
Reviews of "Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route"

To read the reviews, click the links below the Editorial Statement.

Statement from the RR:C19 Editorial Office (September 24, 2020)

While pre-print servers offer a mechanism to disseminate world-changing scientific research at unprecedented speed, they are also a forum through which misleading information can instantaneously undermine the international scientific community’s credibility, destabilize diplomatic relationships, and compromise global safety.

On September 14th, Dr. Li-Meng Yan and colleagues released a report entitled Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route. Yan et al. put forth unverified in silico evidence to support their assertion that SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, was created via intentional genetic manipulation in China. This work goes on to implicate numerous research groups in contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for “an independent investigation into the relevant research laboratories.” If valid, these lines of evidence would support the disturbing claim that SARS-CoV-2 is a man-made virus; however, if the claims are not adequately substantiated, this work is defamatory, grossly negligent, and ethically dubious.

Given the far-reaching implications of the “Yan Report,” RR:C19 sought out peer reviews from world-renowned experts in virology, molecular biology, structural biology, computational biology, vaccine development, and medicine. Collectively, reviewers have debunked the authors’ claims that: (1) bat coronaviruses ZC45 or ZXC21 were used as a background strain to engineer SARS-CoV-2, (2) the presence of restriction sites flanking the RBD suggest prior screening for a virus targeting the human ACE2 receptor, and (3) the furin-like cleavage site is unnatural and provides evidence of engineering. In all three cases, the reviewers provide counter-arguments based on peer-reviewed literature and long-established foundational knowledge that directly refute the claims put forth by Yan et al. There was a general consensus that the study’s claims were better explained by potential political motivations rather than scientific integrity. The peer reviewers arrived at these common opinions independently, further strengthening the credibility of the peer reviews.

We are posting the initial two reviews but expect additional reviews to be posted in the coming days.

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TX
Truth X: I love how you “scientists” discredit each other when someone is telling the truth, How do we know that you guys are not spreading disinformation just like China? How do you explain that China at the start of the epidemic was hiding information, not letting the WHO intervene, restricting their OWN doctors to tell the truth or contact outside? How do you explain the communications with china and outside health authorities were cut? How do you explain that Li-Meng Yan was threatened to death, he escaped to the USA and we don’t know where the hell she is now, the authors of this article probably don’t exist because they were killed/gone. And don’t speak bullshit you don’t know anything about the Chinese. You guys are spreading disinformation, You guys fell in their trap and now you are helping them, good job “scientists” you don’t deserve your diploma, You are NOT a scientist when you are being told to not say the truth, SCIENCE’S OBJECTIVE WAS TO SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH, AND WHEN YOU FIND THE TRUTH YOU KEPT IT IN SECRET, THAT IS THE ONLY THING SCIENTISTS DO IN THIS WORLD AND IS WHY SCIENCE WAS NEVER RELIABLE.
Antonio Farfan-Fiorani: P.S.: Where it says “aren't we”?, it must say “are we?”
Antonio Farfan-Fiorani: My opinion, which by definition is subjective, and which is based upon what I know, what I see on an every day basis, what I read, and what I do research on the above three I have mentioned, is that, regardless this “report”, only any physician without an open-minded way of thinking won't consider the “unlikely” possibility that this virus was man-made, that is, a “biological weapon”. To say this is just not convenient for obvious reasons, but to not think this, an even to not do overthinking, is also not convenient. To put oneself in the worst-case scenario and to be prepared to act based upon it is not to believe in a “conspiracy theory”, rather, it is a necessity and a duty when treating just a single patient. After all, we are not scientists and physicians just to “cure” a common cold, aren't we? It is just like a “Triple Modular Redundancy System”: remember the“Deepwater Horizon” disaster, and above all, the Chernobyl disaster, which is the exanple of the sum of all possible mistakes. I expect you not to misunderstand the honest intention of my opinion.
SW
Stephen Webb: It should be noted that the co authors named in article by Li-Meng Yan, namely Shu Kang, Jie Guan, and Shanchang Hu, do not exist. They are entirely fabricated.