Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn, Chuck Grassley, and Roger Marshall sent a letter Monday to the director of the National Institutes of Health, which operates a scientific facility that conducted coronavirus research, demanding that he disclose the details surrounding the deletion of COVID data from its key database.
In a letter obtained by National Review, the lawmakers asked Director Francis Collins a number of pertinent questions regarding the omitted data and the motives behind its erasure.
It was revealed last week that Chinese researchers instructed the NIH to remove gene sequences of early COVID carriers from an important database called the NIH Sequence Read Archive, the Wall Street Journal reported. The deleted data included sequences from early virus samples extracted from hospitalized patients in Wuhan who were believed to have contracted COVID in January and February of 2020.
Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, was able to recover the deleted files from the Google Cloud and reconstruct partial sequences of 13 early epidemic viruses. The data Bloom uncovered led him to believe that the pathogen was circulating in Wuhan before it presented itself at the Huanan fish market, which scientific consensus had considered the location of the first COVID outbreak until the lab-accident theory started gaining traction in the mainstream.
The World Health Organization investigative team that concluded the lab-leak hypothesis was “unlikely” therefore missed a piece of the data puzzle from around the time of the virus’s genesis, Bloom suggested.
The legislators’ letter implored Collins to publish the names of the collaborating partners to the NIH Sequence Read Archive, the Chinese scientists that made the original request for deletion, the personnel with the authority to delete data, and the history and record of data deletion directed by researchers affiliated with the Chinese regime.
The senators’ plea echoed suspicions of many Republicans in Congress that China has been concealing important information in an effort to block international efforts to discover COVID’s source.
“The efforts by Chinese researchers to delete the data demands additional explanation. As you are aware, the Chinese government has failed, from the beginning, to be open and transparent with the world with respect to its role in the pandemic,” the letter read.
“The American people deserve to know what their government knows about the origins of this global illness,” it said.