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Li-Meng Yan

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Li-Meng Yan
Born1983/1984 (age 36–37)[1]
EducationCentral South University (Xiangya Medical College) MD
Southern Medical University PhD
Medical career
ProfessionPost-Doctoral Researcher
FieldMedicine
InstitutionsUniversity of Hong Kong School of Public Health
Sub-specialtiesImmunology
ResearchInfluenza vaccine, Cell-mediated immunity

Li-Meng Yan (simplified Chinese: 闫丽梦; traditional Chinese: 閆麗夢) or Yan Limeng, is a Chinese virologist who claimed in January 2020 that the Chinese government and the World Health Organization knew about person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 earlier than it was reported.[2][3]

She was taken under the wing of Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese businessman, and in April 2020 fled to the United States where, in September 2020, she published a widely-disputed pre-print research paper claiming that SARS-CoV-2 was made in a Chinese government laboratory.[4][5]

Background

Yan's hometown is Qingdao.[6][3] Yan received her MD degree from Xiangya Medical College of Central South University. She went on to earn her PhD from Southern Medical University.[7] Her research includes the study of The inhibition effect of propranolol on the corneal neovascularization in an alkali-induced injury mouse model[8] and the challenges in developing a universal influenza vaccine.[9]

Transmission of COVID-19

Yan claims that she was one of the first scientists in the world to study the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, after Leo Poon, her supervisor at HKU (a WHO reference lab), asked her to look into a cluster of SARS-like cases in Wuhan, in December 2019.[6] According to Fox News, Yan maintained an extensive network of medical professionals from mainland China, one of whom purportedly told Yan about human-to-human transmission of the novel disease on 31 December 2019.[6] According to Yan, she reported her findings about the virus multiple times to her superiors, including one on 16 January, after which she says she was warned by her supervisor "to keep silent and be careful."[6]

In interviews, initially in January 2020 with "LuDe Media" (「路德社」), owned by Guo Wengui,[3] and later in the year with Fox News, Newsmax TV,[10] and the Daily Mail,[1] Yan accused the Chinese government of knowing about the novel coronavirus before it publicly said that it did and said that lives could have been saved if they had not censored her work.[6][11] She also accused her supervisors, including Leo Poon and Malik Peiris, of ignoring research that she was doing at the onset of the pandemic that she says could have also saved lives.[6][11]

In July 2020, a press release from HKU denied her claim and stated that "HKU notes that the content of the said news report does not accord with the key facts as we understand them. Specifically, Dr Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at HKU during December 2019 and January 2020, her central assertion of the said interview. We further observe that what she might have emphasised in the reported interview has no scientific basis but resembles hearsay."[12] The press release did not mention when and why Yan left HKU.[13] According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the director of HKU's School of Public Health, Keiji Fukuda, said in an internal memo to staff that none of the researchers named by Yan were involved in any cover-up or "secret research".[13]

Yan said that she and her colleagues had an obligation to tell the world of their research[14] given their status as a World Health Organization reference laboratory, so she fled to the United States on 28 April with what she said was her intention of delivering "the message of the truth of COVID," adding if she tried to tell her story in China, she said that she would be "disappeared and killed."[6][11][13]

Published research

Alongside a colleague at HKU and several others from the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, she co-authored a paper entitled "Viral dynamics in mild and severe cases of COVID-19" published in The Lancet in March 2020, regarding the viral shedding patterns observed in patients with mild and severe COVID-19.[15]

She also co-authored "Pathogenesis and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in golden hamsters", published in Nature in May 2020 regarding transmission of the virus in hamsters. This paper was also co-authored by her now-former colleagues at HKU. The abstract of the paper states that SARS-CoV-2 has a "high nucleotide identity" to SARS-related coronaviruses detected in horseshoe bats.[16]

Paper on origins of SARS-CoV-2

In September 2020, Yan was interviewed on the talk show Loose Women and said she planned to release scientific evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was made in a Wuhan laboratory. According to Yan, "this virus is not from nature". The director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology has denied that the virus accidentally spread from the facility.[4] Yan also announced her impending file posting as a guest on Rudy Giuliani's podcast.[17]

Later in September, Yan co-authored a pre-print research paper named "Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route."[18] Three other researchers were listed as co-authors, but the SCMP was unable to find any prior work from them.[19] The paper was uploaded to the Zenodo website, an open-access repository where anyone can post their research.[20] The paper is affiliated with the Rule of Law Society, founded by Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui.[1][18][20] The Rule of Law Society had not previously published scientific or medical research.[20] Yan had previously appeared on Bannon's "War Room" podcast.[19][20]

According to the paper's abstract, "SARS-CoV-2 shows biological characteristics that are inconsistent with a naturally occurring, zoonotic virus" and that it could have been created in a lab in approximately six months.[21][22] According to Newsweek, several experts in evolutionary biology and infectious disease, including Jonathan Eisen and Carl Bergstrom, said the paper did not include new information, contained multiple unsubstantiated claims and had a weak scientific case.[18] Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, said the paper was "basically all circumstantial and some of it is entirely fictional".[20] For example the paper asserts that SARS-CoV-2 has a "unique" furin cleavage site in its protein structure "completely absent in this particular class of coronaviruses found in nature"; however Rasmussen says that many coronaviruses, including the 2012 MERS coronavirus, have these sites and that hence "This proves exactly nothing."[1][21]

In addition to citing many other unpublished pre-print papers Yan's September 2020 pre-print cites online blogs and obscure web sites named "GM Watch" and "Nerd Has Power".[17] Immunologist Kristian G. Andersen, a specialist in communicable diseases and genomics who was one author of a March 2020 journal article in Nature Medicine entitled "The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2" which definitively stated the virus was not created in a lab,[23] and Yujia Alina Chan, a postdoctoral researcher, both say that the paper leaves out recent data related to coronavirus in pangolins and bats.[17] Andersen further characterizes the paper's prose with the statement "A technical language is used that can't be deciphered by non-experts - balderdash disguised as 'scholarship'."[17]

After describing her newly published research paper in a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson in mid-September 2020, Yan said she believed the Chinese government intentionally released the virus.[24] Instagram and Facebook flagged posts of the interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight as false information about COVID-19, saying that they repeated information “that multiple independent fact checkers say is false.”[25] PolitiFact rated her claims on the Tucker Carlson show "Pants on Fire," its strongest rating, which means they were not accurate and "ridiculous" as well.[26]

On 15 September 2020, Yan's Twitter account was suspended, although the reason for the suspension was unclear. She had only four visible posts and one linked to the preprint paper that had not been peer reviewed.[27]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Ward, Alex (September 18, 2020). "The bogus Steve Bannon-backed study claiming China created the coronavirus, explained". Vox. Vox Media. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  2. ^ Bowden, Ebony (July 10, 2020). "Chinese virologist in hiding after accusing Beijing of coronavirus cover-up". New York Post. Archived from the original on July 10, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "闫丽梦爆料 李文亮第二?港大回应" (in Chinese). Deutsche Welle Chinese Network. July 12, 2020. Archived from the original on July 16, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Musumeci, Natalie (September 11, 2020). "Chinese virologist claims she has proof COVID-19 was made in Wuhan lab". New York Post. Archived from the original on September 14, 2020. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  5. ^ Brouillette, Monique; Renner, Rebecca (September 18, 2020). "Why misinformation about COVID-19's origins keeps going viral: Another piece of coronavirus misinformation is making the rounds. Here's how to sift through the muck". National Geographic.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Chakraborty, Barnini (July 9, 2020). "Chinese virologist accuses Beijing of coronavirus cover-up, flees Hong Kong: 'I know how they treat whistleblowers'". Fox News. Archived from the original on July 11, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  7. ^ CNN Indonesia (August 4, 2020). "Li-Meng Yan, Pakar Virologi Pengungkap Sumber Corona di China". CNN Indonesia (in Indonesian). Archived from the original on August 23, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  8. ^ "普萘洛尔对小鼠角膜碱烧伤模型中新生血管抑制作用的实验研究". Archived from the original on July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  9. ^ Valkenburg SA, Leung NHL, Bull MB, Yan LM, Li APY, Poon LLM; et al. (2018). "The Hurdles From Bench to Bedside in the Realization and Implementation of a Universal Influenza Vaccine". Front Immunol. 9: 1479. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.01479. PMC 6036122. PMID 30013557. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved September 18, 2020.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ 許懿安 (August 15, 2020). "美媒訪港大前研究員閆麗夢 稱2種病毒改造而成 沒提出實質證據". HK01 (in Chinese). Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c "Hong Kong virologist claiming coronavirus cover-up tells 'Bill Hemmer Reports': 'We don't have much time'". Fox. Archived from the original on July 17, 2020. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  12. ^ "HKU responds to the media concerning a former staff member's TV interview". July 11, 2020. Archived from the original on July 12, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c Low, Zoe (July 16, 2020). "Coronavirus: HKU school head chides former worker for tarring reputation of ex-colleagues on American TV over alleged research cover-up" Archived July 16, 2020, at the Wayback Machine South China Morning Post.
  14. ^ Chakraborty, Barnini. "Chinese virologist accuses Beijing of coronavirus cover-up, flees Hong Kong: 'I know how they treat whistleblowers'". Archived from the original on July 11, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2020. She adds that they likely had an obligation to tell the world, given their status as a World Health Organization reference laboratory specializing in influenza viruses and pandemics, especially as the virus began spreading in the early days of 2020.
  15. ^ Liu, Yang; Yan, Li-Meng; Wan, Lagen; Xiang, Tian-Xin; Le, Aiping; Liu, Jia-Ming; Peiris, Malik; Poon, Leo L. M.; Zhang, Wei (June 2020). "Viral dynamics in mild and severe cases of COVID-19". The Lancet. Infectious Diseases. 20 (6): 656–657. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30232-2. ISSN 1474-4457. PMC 7158902. PMID 32199493. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  16. ^ "(PDF) Pathogenesis and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in golden hamsters". Archived from the original on July 11, 2020. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  17. ^ a b c d Wermuth, Julian (September 17, 2020). "Stammt das Coronavirus aus dem Labor? Diese 4 Punkte sollten dich skeptisch machen" [Does the coronavirus come from the laboratory? These 4 points should make you skeptical]. Der Faktencheck, 'The factcheck' (in German). Watson [de]. Archived from the original on September 20, 2020. Retrieved September 20, 2020. Es wird eine technische Sprache verwendet, die für Nicht-Experten nicht zu entschlüsseln ist – Schnickschnack, der als ‹Wissenschaft› verkleidet ist.
  18. ^ a b c G, Kashmira (September 15, 2020). "Fact-check: Does a new study give evidence that the coronavirus was made in a lab?". Newsweek. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Baptista, Eduardo (September 16, 2020) "‘Artificial coronavirus’ study linked to Steve Bannon and Chinese fugitive Guo Wengui" Archived September 16, 2020, at the Wayback Machine South China Morning Post.
  20. ^ a b c d e "Steve Bannon Is Behind Bogus Study That China Created COVID". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Yan, Li-Meng; Kang, Shu; Guan, Jie; Hu, Shanchang (September 14, 2020). "Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route". doi:10.5281/zenodo.4028830. Archived from the original on September 15, 2020. Retrieved September 14, 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ "Chinese virologist Dr Li-Meng Yan publishes report claiming COVID-19 was made in a lab". www.theaustralian.com.au. September 15, 2020. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  23. ^ Andersen, Kristian G.; Rambaut, Andrew; Lipkin, W. Ian; Holmes, Edward C.; Garry, Robert F. (March 17, 2020). "The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2". Nature Medicine. 26 (4): 450–452. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9. PMC 7095063. PMID 32284615.
  24. ^ Dorman, Sam (September 15, 2020). "Chinese virologist: China's government 'intentionally' released COVID-19". Fox News. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  25. ^ Hsu, Tiffany (September 16, 2020). "Facebook and Instagram Flag Tucker Carlson Virus Posts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on September 17, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  26. ^ Daniel Funke (September 16, 2020). "Tucker Carlson guest airs debunked conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab". Politifact.
  27. ^ Murdock, Jason (September 16, 2020). "Twitter Suspends Account of Chinese Virologist Who Claimed Coronavirus Was Made in a Lab". Newsweek. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.