Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier, a virologist and French professor, claimed yesterday that it was a laboratory in China that created a new type of coronavirus. Montagnier noted in an interview with C News Channel that he did not believe that coronavirus went from animals to the Wuhan wet market.
The Nobel laureate used the phrase “a new type of coronavirus”, as SARS was a virus of the same type. There are quite a few kinds of coronavirus, the most infamous of them being SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. The SARS-CoV-2 is a result of China’s attempt to manufacture a vaccine, Montagnier said, against the virus that causes AIDS, the HIV.
China claimed yesterday, conceding partly its mistake, that the virus had “accidentally leaked” by means of an intern of the Wuhan institute infecting her boyfriend who, in turn, went to the market and infected others. The Nobel laureate says, however, that the “industrial” accident, said to have taken place in the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, is a diversionary tactic.
The ‘leak’ theory is “a good legend but it’s impossible”, Montagnier said. The virus came out of the Wuhan lab (the laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology). The Nobel laureate said way back in the 2000s, the lab had developed an expertise in coronaviruses.
“The Wuhan city laboratory has specialised in these coronaviruses since the early 2000s,” he claimed. “They have expertise in this area.”
Together with his colleague, mathematician Jean-Claude Perez, the Nobel laureate analysed the genome sequence of the new type of coronavirus.
The virologist said he was not the first to draw this conclusion. Indian researchers, he said, had published a work where they stated that part of the human immunodeficiency virus was inserted into this genome, probably to make a vaccine against HIV.
Montagnier had received the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology in 2008 for his discovery of HIV. He said the presence of elements of HIV in the genome of the new virus and even elements of the “germ of malaria” were highly suspect.
Professor Montagnier is a former member of the Institut Pasteur. He shared the 2008 Nobel Prize for the identification of the virus responsible for AIDS with his colleague of the time, Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi.
French scientists may well be the best placed to judge China’s role in the global pandemic, as China had designed and constructed the Wuhan lab with French assistance. The collaboration had begun in 2004, but the Chinese scientists were found to be lacking the knowledge of virology and their country the infrastructure to support the collaboration, because of which it could not be fully functional until 2014.
Sceptic virologist disagrees with Nobel laureate
However, in very France, there is another professor of virology who does not buy the Nobel laureate’s reasoning. Virologist Étienne Simon-Lorière of the Institut Pasteur in Paris said to news agency Agence France Presse, “These are very small elements that we find in other viruses of the same family, other coronaviruses in nature. These are pieces of the genome that actually look like lots of sequences in the genetic material of bacteria, viruses and plants,” he said.
“If we take a word from a book and it looks like another word, can we say that one has copied from the other? This is absurd!” Prof Simon-Lorière drew a simplistic analogy to make his point.