Nobel Prize-winning professor did not say coronavirus was manufactured in China
A post on Facebook claims a Nobel Prize-winning Japanese scientist has said the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes the potentially deadly COVID-19 disease was “manufactured” by China. “If it is natural, it wouldn’t have adversely affected the entire world like this. Because, as per nature, temperature is different in different countries. If it is natural, it would adversely affect only those countries having the same temperature as China.”
“It is manufactured and the virus is completely artificial. I have worked for 4 years in the Wuhan laboratory in China”.
Professor Honjo said he was “fully acquainted with the staff of that laboratory” and then purports he said “all their phones are dead” and “it is now understood that all these lab technicians have died”.
“Based on all my knowledge and research till date, I can say this with 100% confidence – That the Coronavirus is not natural. It did not come from bats. China manufactured it”.
In total the posts have been viewed over 100,000 times, shared over 1,950 times and received over 1,200 interactions.
The April 26 Facebook post claims Prof Honjo said: “the Coronavirus is not natural. The above information is fake says the professor.
A spokesperson from Kyoto University, where Prof Honjo, a researcher in molecular immunology, holds tenure, told AAP FactCheck in an email that the professor did not say any of the things outlined in the April 26 Facebook post. In a statement posted to the the Kyoto University website, Prof Honjo said he was saddened that his name had been used to spread false accusations and misinformation. A statement from their site
Statement from Tasuku Honjo on COVID-19
In light of recent misleading news purported to represent the views of Distinguished Professor Tasuku Honjo of the Kyoto University Institute of Advanced Study, the University is publishing the following statement from Professor Honjo.
In the wake of the pain, economic loss, and unprecedented global suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am greatly saddened that my name and that of Kyoto University have been used to spread false accusations and misinformation.
This is a time for all of us, especially those of us devoting our careers to the forefronts of scientific research, to work together to fight this common enemy. We cannot delay one moment in this effort to save the lives of our fellow humans. At this stage, when all of our energies are needed to treat the ill, prevent the further spread of sorrow, and plan for a new beginning, the broadcasting of unsubstantiated claims regarding the origins of the disease is dangerously distracting.
This University devotes itself to furthering the wellbeing of humanity based on a principal of harmonious coexistence with the natural environment. It is my enduring pleasure and honor to support this aim to my fullest. Let us keep our eyes on the highest goals attainable by our species.
27 April 2020
Deputy Director-General and Distinguished Professor
Institute for Advanced Study
The April 26 Facebook post claims Prof Honjo said: “I have worked for 4 years in the Wuhan laboratory in China. I am fully acquainted with all the staff of that laboratory”.
Prof Honjo has not worked at any Chinese laboratories, according to his Kyoto University biography. He studied medicine at Kyoto University, graduated with a Ph.D in medical chemistry, then took various posts at higher education institutions around Japan and fellowships in America. In 2018 Prof Honjo shared a Nobel Prize with James P. Allison for developing new immunotherapies to cancer.
The April 26 post‘s mention of “the Wuhan laboratory” is evidently a reference to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a research centre in Wuhan, China which opened that country’s first level 4 biosafety laboratory in 2015.
Since February the WIV has become the target of conspiracy theories that claim the coronavirus escaped from a lab or was a manufactured bioweapon.
In recent weeks opinion articles have reignited the theories, with a claim that circumstantial evidence points to the WIV as the source of the outbreak of COVID-19 and a report that diplomatic cables sounded the alarm about inadequate biosafety procedures at the institute.
AAP FactCheck has checked similar claims about the WIV and to date found there is no evidence that directly links the Wuhan Institute of Virology with the outbreak of COVID-19.
A leading Australian researcher has stated there is no evidence to support claims of SARS-CoV-2 originating in a laboratory and in March researchers published in the journal Nature Medicine reported that analysis showed “that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus”.