June 9, 2021 ~ The Guardian ~ by Peter Beaumont

Leading biologist dampens his ‘smoking gun’ Covid lab leak theory

Nobel laureate David Baltimore says he overstated case, and the origins of the virus are still unknown

A Nobel prize-winning US biologist, who has been widely quoted describing a “smoking gun” to support the thesis that Covid-19 was genetically modified and escaped from a Wuhan lab, has said he overstated the case.

David Baltimore, a distinguished biology professor, had become one of the most prominent figures cited by proponents of the so-called lab leak theory.

Originally quoted in an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in May, and widely requoted since, Baltimore had appeared to suggest that a specific feature in Covid-19’s genome, known as the furin cleavage site, was the “smoking gun” to the theory the virus had been contained inside a laboratory and then escaped via a leak.

“These features make a powerful challenge to the idea of a natural origin for Sars2,” he said at the time.

In recent days, however, Baltimore has told a fellow researcher, the scientific journal Nature and the LA Times that – while he had been quoted accurately in the bulletin – he should not have used the phrase “smoking gun” and was uncertain what the feature proved regarding the origins of the virus – natural or otherwise.

In an email exchange with the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore conceded he had overstated the case and that he had an open mind on the matter.

“[I] should have softened the phrase ‘smoking gun’ because I don’t believe that it proves the origin of the furin cleavage site but it does sound that way.

“I believe that the question of whether the sequence was put in naturally or by molecular manipulation is very hard to determine but I wouldn’t rule out either origin.”

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