In their letter, the Paris group also took issue with Daszak’s defense of a move by the Wuhan Institute of Virology to take of its data offline — thus making it unavailable to outside reviewers. The Wuhan laboratory started pulling its databases in September 2019, and the information remains off-limits today. During a Covid-19 briefing hosted earlier this year by the Chatham House, a London-based international affairs think tank, Daszak said the move was “absolutely reasonable,” given that the data had been subjected to more than 3,000 hacking attempts. He added that he had never asked to see the data, but that as a scientific collaborator, he was familiar with the databases’ contents.
In that Chatham House briefing, Daszak referred to the data as an “Excel spreadsheet,” a characterization that the Paris group says minimizes the amount of data that has gone missing. In reality, the group wrote in their letter, there were 16 databases with 600 gigabytes of data. This information came to light when DRASTIC was provided with archived logs containing descriptions of the database contents (though not the actual data itself). According to those logs, the missing databases contain records for 22,000 samples, mostly from bats, and sequences for at least 500 recently discovered bat coronaviruses.
Among those coronaviruses, according to a document prepared by DRASTIC, 50 are SARS-related and 19 at a minimum were grown in culture. In addition, according to the document, the log notes refer to a subset of viral sequences that “cannot be published” and “we have no idea what they are,” Demaneuf says. According to the DRASTIC document, the log notes, which were translated from Chinese, state that users can only access the unpublishable data by “contacting the relevant management personnel.”