Alina Chan

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Alina Chan
Scientific career
FieldsMolecular biology, cell engineering, gene therapy
InstitutionsBroad Institute

Alina Chan is a Canadian molecular biologist specializing in gene therapy and cell engineering at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she is a postdoctoral fellow. During the COVID-19 pandemic she became known for questioning the prevailing consensus regarding the origins of the virus and publicly advocating a laboratory escape hypothesis.[1][2][3][4]


Chan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Singaporean parents. Her family returned to Singapore shortly after, where she grew up. She returned to Canada after high school to study biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia, where she earned a PhD.[1] She then joined Harvard University as a postdoctoral scholar, later joining the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute.[1][2]

COVID-19 origins[edit]

Chan became known during the COVID-19 pandemic for co-authoring a preprint according to which the virus was "pre-adapted" to humans and suggesting COVID-19 could have escaped from a laboratory.[2][4] The preprint has not been accepted for publication by a scientific journal, but received a significant reception in the popular press.[2]

The reaction of virologists and other specialists to Chan's hypothesis has been largely, but not exclusively, negative. The New York Times noted in October 2021 that Chan's view has been "widely disputed by other scientists", but some have commended her willingness to advance alternative hypotheses in the face of controversy.[5] Jonathan Eisen of UC Davis praised Chan for raising the lab-origin discussion, but said her views remain conjecture, as not enough disease outbreaks have been traced in enough molecular detail to know what is normal, noting also that the virus continues to change and adapt.[2] Sixteen months after Chan's preprint was shared online, a scientific review article published in Cell described the pre-adaptation theory as "without validity."[6]

Chan detailed her views publicly in long Twitter postings called "tweetorials"[2][3] and wrote opinion pieces on the subject with science journalist Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal and in The Daily Telegraph.[7][8] Chan later signed open letters together with other scientists published in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, calling for full and unrestricted international forensic investigations into all possible origins of the virus.[9][10] She was one of 18 scientists who signed a letter in Science Magazine calling again for a credible investigation into the origins of the virus.[11] The letter called for a "proper investigation" into "both natural and laboratory spillovers" and was widely covered in the press and brought the debate on the possible lab origins of the virus into the mainstream.[12][13][14][15][16][17]

Chan and Ridley authored a book entitled Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19, published by HarperCollins in November 2021.[2][18][19] She planned to change her name after the book was published in order to pursue her scientific career "quietly".[2]

In September 2021, Chan participated in a debate on COVID-19 origins organized by Science magazine, which included scientists Linfa Wang, Michael Worobey, and Jesse Bloom.[20][21][22]


  1. ^ a b c Rabin, Roni Caryn (24 August 2021). "Caught in the Crossfire over Covid's Origins". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Regalado, Antonio (25 June 2021). "They called it a conspiracy theory. But Alina Chan tweeted life into the idea that the virus came from a lab". MIT Technology Review.
  3. ^ a b Jacobsen, Rowan (9 September 2020). "Could COVID-19 Have Escaped from a Lab?". Boston Magazine.
  4. ^ a b Harris, Mary (13 April 2021). "A Different Theory of COVID-19's Origin". Slate Magazine.
  5. ^ Rabin, Roni Caryn (24 August 2021). "Caught in the Crossfire Over Covid's Origins". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  6. ^ Holmes, Edward C.; Goldstein, Stephen A.; Rasmussen, Angela L.; Robertson, David L.; Crits-Christoph, Alexander; Wertheim, Joel O.; Anthony, Simon J.; Barclay, Wendy S.; Boni, Maciej F.; Doherty, Peter C.; Farrar, Jeremy (2021-09-16). "The origins of SARS-CoV-2: A critical review". Cell. 184 (19): 4848–4856. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2021.08.017. ISSN 1097-4172. PMC 8373617. PMID 34480864.
  7. ^ Chan, Alina; Ridley, Matt (January 15, 2021). "The World Needs a Real Investigation Into the Origins of Covid-19". Wall Street Journal – via
  8. ^ Ridley, Matt; Chan, Alina (February 6, 2021). "Did the Covid-19 virus really escape from a Wuhan lab?". The Telegraph – via
  9. ^ "Open Letter: Call for a Full and Unrestricted International Forensic Investigation into the Origins of COVID-19" (PDF). 4 March 2021. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  11. ^ Bloom, Jesse D.; Chan, Yujia Alina; Baric, Ralph S.; Bjorkman, Pamela J.; Cobey, Sarah; Deverman, Benjamin E.; Fisman, David N.; Gupta, Ravindra; Iwasaki, Akiko; Lipsitch, Marc; Medzhitov, Ruslan; Neher, Richard A.; Nielsen, Rasmus; Patterson, Nick; Stearns, Tim; Nimwegen, Erik van; Worobey, Michael; Relman, David A. (May 14, 2021). "Investigate the origins of COVID-19". Science. 372 (6543): 694. Bibcode:2021Sci...372..694B. doi:10.1126/science.abj0016. PMC 9520851. PMID 33986172. S2CID 234487267.
  12. ^ Whipple, Tom (27 May 2021). "Could a lab leak really be to blame for Covid-19?". The Australian. Archived from the original on 2021-06-18. Retrieved 2021-06-18.
  13. ^ Palus, Shannon (May 29, 2021). "Just Because We're Talking About the Lab Leak Theory Doesn't Mean It's Come True". Slate Magazine.
  14. ^ "Many Scientists Still Think The Coronavirus Came From Nature".
  15. ^ "The science around the lab leak theory hasn't changed. But here's why some scientists have". NBC News. 18 June 2021.
  16. ^ Barnes, Adam (June 17, 2021). "Harvard scientist says Trump hatred motivated experts who denied Wuhan lab leak theory". The Hill.
  17. ^ "How It Started, How It's Going". On the Media. WNYC Studios. May 21, 2021.
  18. ^ Honigsbaum, Mark (2021-11-15). "Viral by Alina Chan and Matt Ridley review – was Covid-19 really made in China?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2021-11-15. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  19. ^ Hiltzik, Michael (2021-11-15). "These authors wanted to push the COVID-19 lab-leak theory. Instead they exposed its weaknesses". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2021-11-15. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  20. ^ "'Lab-leak' and natural origin proponents face off—civilly—in forum on pandemic origins".
  21. ^ Karel, Daniel (9 October 2021). ""Lab leak" or natural spillover? Leading scientists debate COVID-19 origins". Salon. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  22. ^ "The Mysterious Case of the COVID-19 Lab-Leak Theory". The New Yorker. 12 October 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2021.

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