Li-Meng Yan

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Li-Meng Yan
Born1983/1984 (age 37–38)[1]
EducationMD and PhD in ophthalmology[2]
Medical career
ProfessionPost-doctoral researcher
InstitutionsUniversity of Hong Kong School of Public Health
ResearchInfluenza vaccine

Li-Meng Yan or Yan Limeng (simplified Chinese: 闫丽梦; traditional Chinese: 閆麗夢) is a Chinese virologist,[3] known for publications and interviews alleging that SARS-CoV-2 was made in a Chinese government laboratory. These publications have been widely criticised by the scientific community.[4][5][6][7]

In April 2020, she fled to the United States. She co-authored several preprint research papers[a] claiming that SARS-CoV-2 was "produced in a laboratory."[9][10][11] According to scientific reviewers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Yan's paper offered "contradictory and inaccurate information that does not support their argument,"[4] while reviewers from Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 criticised her preprints as not demonstrating "sufficient scientific evidence to support its claims."[5]

Education and early career[edit]

Yan is a native of Qingdao, Shandong, China.[12]

She received her medical degree from Xiangya Medical College of Central South University in China.[2][when?] In 2014, she completed a PhD in ophthalmology from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou.[2][13][14] After this, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) until 2020.[6][15]

According to one of her peer-reviewed research papers, she was affiliated with the State Key Laboratory of Virology, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.[16] Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Yan had served as a co-author on articles about Aquareoviruses and universal influenza vaccines.[17]

Origins of SARS-CoV-2[edit]

Preprint papers[edit]

Between September 2020 and March 2021, Yan authored a series of four preprint research papers, wherein she argued that SARS-CoV-2 did not emerge naturally in a "spillover from animals," but rather was produced in a laboratory.[9] Her preprints (which did not undergo a scientific peer review process) were posted to the Zenodo platform, an open-access repository where anyone can post their research.[18]

Yan stated that evidence of genetic engineering was censored in scientific journals, allegedly as part of a conspiracy to suppress information on the topic.[9][19] However, other scientists disputed the validity of the papers, pointing to poor methods, undisclosed funding from politically-motivated sources, the use of pseudonyms for the papers' co-authors, and the papers having never been submitted to a journal for review.[20][21][7][4] The papers were described by virologists as "non-scientific,"[22] "junk science," and written to spread "political propaganda."[21]

Reviewers for MIT Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), which seeks out preprint papers and reviews them in an attempt to reduce the spread of false or misleading scientific news,[23] analyzed Yan's study and issued the following statement:

Given the far-reaching implications of the "Yan Report," RR:C19 sought out peer reviews from world-renowned experts in virology, molecular biology, structural biology, computational biology, vaccine development, and medicine. Collectively, reviewers have debunked the authors' claims that: (1) bat coronaviruses ZC45 or ZXC21 were used as a background strain to engineer SARS-CoV-2, (2) the presence of restriction sites flanking the RBD suggest prior screening for a virus targeting the human ACE2 receptor, and (3) the furin-like cleavage site is unnatural and provides evidence of engineering. In all three cases, the reviewers provide counter-arguments based on peer-reviewed literature and long-established foundational knowledge that directly refute the claims put forth by Yan et al. There was a general consensus that the study's claims were better explained by potential political motivations rather than scientific integrity. The peer reviewers arrived at these common opinions independently, further strengthening the credibility of the peer reviews.[5]

Political links[edit]

Yan's preprint was promoted by the Rule of Law Society,[24] a political organisation affiliated with Steve Bannon, former Trump strategist, and Guo Wengui, an expatriate Chinese billionaire, in November 2018.[7][25] The organisation's stated intent was to investigate "Chinese corruption and financially support victims of the regime."[18][19][26] The Rule of Law Society had not previously published scientific or medical research.[18] Yan previously appeared on Bannon's "War Room" podcast.[20][18] The lack of financial disclosure in Yan's papers was described as a lapse in ethical transparency by Dr. Adam Lauring, particularly when publishing "what are essentially conspiracy theories that are not founded in fact".[5]

In November 2020, The New York Times reported that Yan's "trajectory was carefully crafted" by Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui, who played to rising anti-Chinese sentiments, with the goal of bringing down China's government and distracting from the Trump administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.[27] The Times article pointed out that Guo and Bannon arranged for Yan to fly first class to the United States, arranged lodging, coached her on media appearances, and arranged interviews for her with conservative media hosts such as Lou Dobbs and Tucker Carlson.[27]

Media coverage[edit]

In an 80-minute show in January 2020, YouTube host Wang Dinggang, also known as "Lu De", said he heard from an unnamed whistleblower who told him China was not being transparent about the outbreak in Wuhan.[27] Wang described his source, who was later revealed to be Yan, as "the world's absolute top coronavirus expert."[27] Although Yan worked at one of the world's top virology labs, she was fairly new to the field of virology and had not studied coronaviruses before the COVID-19 pandemic.[27]

Between July and August, Yan was interviewed by Fox News, Newsmax TV,[28] and the Daily Mail.[1] Yan claimed in interviews that she became aware of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 in late December 2019, and that she attempted to communicate the risks to her superiors in late December 2019 or early January 2020.[21]

She stated that the Chinese government and the World Health Organization (WHO) knew about the person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 earlier than they reported or made public, and she stated that the Chinese government suppressed both her research and that of others.[12]

An official statement issued by HKU on July 11, 2020 confirmed that Yan was formerly a post-doctoral researcher at the institution,[29] but disputed the accuracy of other elements of her account, adding that "Dr. Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at HKU", and that many of her claims had no scientific basis.[7][30]


  1. ^ During the coronavirus pandemic, the practice of publishing scientific preprints – early drafts of research findings that are not peer-reviewed – has increased in order to share findings that might have a public benefit, more rapidly.[8] Yan claimed in her papers that they could not be published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals due to "censorship."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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 October 22, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c 郭, 嘉, ed. (September 19, 2020). 港大前研究員污衊中國 班農為幕後黑手炮製病毒人造論與美右翼反華媒體唱雙簧 (PDF). 國際. Ta Kung Pao (in Chinese) (42052). p. A24. OCLC 222546985. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 23, 2020. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  3. ^ Timberg, Craig. "Scientists said claims about China creating the coronavirus were misleading. They went viral anyway". Washington Post. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Warmbrod, Kelsey Lane; West, Rachel M.; Connell, Nancy D.; Gronvall, Gigi Kwik (September 21, 2020). In Response: Yan et al Preprint—Examinations of the Origin of SARS-CoV-2 (PDF) (Report). Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 26, 2020. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Koyama, Takahiko; Lauring, Adam; Gallo, Robert Charles; Reitz, Marvin (September 24, 2020), Reviews of "Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route", Biological and Chemical Sciences, Rapid Reviews: Covid-19, MIT Press, ISSN 2692-4072, archived from the original on October 8, 2020, lay summary (October 2, 2020)
  6. ^ a b Timberg, Craig (February 13, 2021). "Scientists said claims about China creating the coronavirus were misleading. They went viral anyway". Washington Post. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d Dapcevich, Madison (September 21, 2020). "Did Chinese Virologist Dr. Li-Meng Yan Say COVID-19 Was Made in a Wuhan Lab?". Snopes. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  8. ^ Kuznia, Rob; Bronstein, Scott; Griffin, Drew; Devine, Curt (October 21, 2020). "How a Covid-19 origin theory backed by Bannon unraveled". CNN.
  9. ^ a b c d 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.
  10. ^ Hakim, Mohamad S. (February 14, 2021). "SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19, and the debunking of conspiracy theories". Reviews in Medical Virology: e2222. doi:10.1002/rmv.2222. ISSN 1099-1654. PMC 7995093. PMID 33586302.
  11. ^ Graham, Rachel L.; Baric, Ralph S. (May 19, 2020). "SARS-CoV-2: Combating Coronavirus Emergence". Immunity. 52 (5): 734–736. doi:10.1016/j.immuni.2020.04.016. ISSN 1074-7613. PMC 7207110. PMID 32392464.
  12. ^ a b 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.
  13. ^ "Li-Meng Yan, Pakar Virologi Pengungkap Sumber Corona di China". CNN Indonesia (in Indonesian). August 4, 2020. Archived from the original on August 23, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  14. ^ Li-Meng, Yan (2014). "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-手机知网". Doctal Thesis. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  15. ^ "HKU responds to the media concerning a former staff member's TV interview". University of Hong Kong (Press release). Press release. July 11, 2020. Archived from the original on July 12, 2020. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  16. ^ Ling Shao, Hong Guo, Li-Ming Yan, Huan Liu, Qin Fang: Aquareovirus NS80 Recruits Viral Proteins to Its Inclusions, and Its C-Terminal Domain Is the Primary Driving Force for Viral Inclusion Formation
  17. ^ Valkenburg SA, Leung NH, Bull MB, Yan LM, Li AP, Poon LL, 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.
  18. ^ a b c d Markay, Adam Rawnsley (September 15, 2020). "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.
  19. ^ a b 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ a b c Kuznia, Rob; Bronstein, Scott; Griffin, Drew; Devine, Curt (October 21, 2020). "How a Covid-19 origin theory backed by Bannon unraveled - CNNPolitics". CNN. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Rapid Reviews: Covid-19. Archived from the original on August 11, 2020. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  24. ^ Rasmussen, Angela L. (January 2021). "On the origins of SARS-CoV-2". Nature Medicine. 27 (1): 9. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-01205-5. ISSN 1546-170X. PMID 33442004.
  25. ^ Ward, Alex (September 18, 2020). "The bogus Steve Bannon-backed study claiming China created the coronavirus, explained". Vox. Yan’s study was published by the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, two New York City-based groups Bannon helped create alongside Guo Wengui, a Chinese dissident and billionaire [...].
  26. ^ Helderman, Rosalind S.; Dawsey, Josh; Shih, Gerry; Zapotosky, Matt. "How former Trump adviser Steve Bannon joined forces with a Chinese billionaire who has divided the president's allies". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  27. ^ a b c d e Amy Qin, Vivian Wang, Danny Hakim (November 20, 2020). "How Steve Bannon and a Chinese Billionaire Created a Right-Wing Coronavirus Media Sensation". The New York Times.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Wu, Katherine J. (October 13, 2020). "Another 'Unfounded' Study on Origins of Virus Spreads Online". The New York Times.
  30. ^ Mok, Danny (July 12, 2020). "University of Hong Kong rejects accusations from academic of Covid-19 cover-up". South China Morning Post. Retrieved July 17, 2021.