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WATCH: Interview With Molecular Biologist Philipp Markolin on COVID Origins

Most Americans today believe that novel coronavirus escaped from a Chinese lab, but what does the evidence say?

If you asked a stranger on the street where they thought the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, originated, you might be surprised by the answer.

Although once a fringe idea pushed by motivated actors on the political right—many of whom Important Context has previously reported on—the laboratory leak hypothesis has gone mainstream. Today, Republican politicians and right-wing operatives are in the majority on the issue as two-thirds of Americans believe COVID is the result of a lab leak.

In the last few years, reporting has fueled speculation. There was the news of a research grant from the National Institutes of Health to EcoHealth Alliance, that included a sub grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to create chimeric viruses in mice—though scientists were clear that none of those viruses could have become SARS-CoV-2.

Then, there was the reveal of unredacted emails from NIH scientists who publicly dismissed the lab leak idea in an open letter, indicating that initially, they had privately wondered about a possible lab origin. More recently, there was buzz about a research grant proposal to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from the head of EcoHealth Alliance to modify viruses with features of SARS-CoV-2. However, DARPA denied the proposal.

So what does the body of available evidence actually suggest? Is the lab leak now really the most likely explanation for COVID’s origins? In short, no.

For the full explanation of why it is that natural spillover remains the most likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic, Important Context’s Walker Bragman turned to Ph.D. molecular biologist Philipp Markolin. Markolin is a science communicator who runs the Substack newsletter Protagonist Future.

We hope you find the conversation engaging and informative!

One note: It was 2023 when New Federal State of China sponsored the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).