BY FRANK FANG July 6, 2021 Updated: July 8, 2021
Internal emails of Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently obtained by U.S. media through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), have cast a spotlight on the longstanding relationship between an epidemiology professor at Columbia University and China.
Walter Ian Lipkin, a Columbia professor known as a “virus hunter” for his long career in studying infectious diseases, wrote to Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in May 2020 and appears to thank the official for publicly rejecting the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab.
“We deeply appreciate your efforts in steering and messaging,” Lipkin wrote on May 5, 2020.
It’s unclear who else the “we” in the message is referring to. But as part of the email, Lipkin also forwards a May 5 email from CCP official Chen Zhu to the professor.
Chen is currently the vice chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the regime’s rubber-stamp legislature. He previously served as China’s former minister of health from 2007 to 2013, and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body, from 2005 to 2013.
The entirety of Chen’s message to Lipkin has been redacted under FOIA.
Lipkin went to China at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist Beijing in its combat against local outbreaks.
Upon his return to the United States, Lipkin became vocal in denouncing the possibility that the CCP virus originated from a laboratory leak at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
“All the evidence that we’ve seen thus far indicates that this virus came from wildlife,” Lipton told China’s state-run broadcaster CCTV in February 2020. “And there is no evidence that there was any conspiracy or sloppiness or anything that led to anything coming out of the Institute for Virology in Wuhan.”
A month later, Lipkin and a group of international scientists further dismissed the lab leak theory in their findings published in the journal Nature Medicine. They concluded: “It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus.”
The lab leak theory, dismissed as a “conspiracy theory” at the start of the pandemic, has garnered international scrutiny in recent months as new evidence has emerged, including how WIV staff became sick with COVID-19-like symptoms before the outbreak.
Lipkin’s close working relationship with China appears to date back at least to the SARS outbreak of 2003. He went to China as a SARS adviser to China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Health, while acting as an intermediary between the World Health Organization and Chinese authorities.
He worked closely with Chen, who at the time was vice president of the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
After SARS, several Chinese biomedicine institutions were established with contributions from Lipkin, including Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, CAS’s Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, and the Center of Infectious Diseases at the Peking University Health Science Center.
In May 2013, the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health signed an agreement with the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention (NIVDC) within the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The agreement called for the establishment of a joint pathogen research laboratory in China.
Lipkin has been CII’s director since 2007, according to his LinkedIn page.
In October 2015, Lipkin visited the WIV to present a report at an event presided by Shi Zhengli. Shi, the director of the WIV’s research center who has earned the nickname “Bat Lady” for her research on bat coronaviruses, has flatly rejected the lab leak theory.
In 2019, the CAS awarded funding for a joint project between CII and China’s Sun Yat-Sen University—the latter having been identified as having ties to the Chinese military. The project was for researching zoonotic diseases, that is, infectious diseases that transmit from animals to humans.
Weeks before his January 2020 trip to China to assist Chinese authorities to combat the spread of the virus, Lipkin visited the Chinese Consulate in New York and was awarded a medal by Consul General Huang Ping.
The medal—issued jointly by the CCP’s Central Committee, the cabinet-like State Council, and the regime’s highest military body Central Military Commission—was used to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Party taking power in China. To qualify for the medal, foreigners must have “made outstanding contributions” to the founding of the Chinese regime, according to China’s state-run media.
Years earlier, the Chinese Consulate in New York had nominated Lipkin for China’s highest honor to foreign scientists, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Award, according to the regime’s Ministry of Science and Technology. Lipkin received the award in January 2016 in a ceremony presided by top CCP officials, including Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang—as well as Chen.
Two months later, in March 2016, Lipton took part in a banquet hosted by the Chinese Consulate in New York honoring scientists who made significant contributions to Sino–U.S. cooperation on science and technology.
Lipkin and Fauci’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer
Professor Walter Ian Lipkin of Columbia University visited Beroni Group
On the afternoon of 12th June, 2018, Professor Walter Ian Lipkin from Columbia University visited Beroni Group after attending The International Symposium for Infection & Immunity organized by Nankai University and Beroni Group.
Walter Ian Lipkin, Professor of Epidemiology, Neurology and Pathology, Director of Center for Infection and Immunity of Columbia University is internationally recognized as an authority on the use of molecular methods for pathogen discovery. He won the China International Science and Technology Cooperation Award in 2015, and was dubbed the “World’s Most Celebrated Virus Hunter” by Discover. During the 2003 SARS outbreak, Professor Walter Ian Lipkin assisted China to fight SARS and donated 10,000 test kits to China, which effectively promoted the cooperation between China and USA in the field of SARS and finding effective therapy to defeat SARS.
In March 2018, Beroni Group entered into a cooperation agreement with Columbia University on ArboViroPlex rRT-PCR Test Research Program, laying a good foundation for future cooperation.
During the visit, Professor Walter Ian Lipkin and his team members learnt more about the strategic development plan of Beroni Group and the basic situation of the recent R&D projects. Professor Walter Ian Lipkin spoke highly of Beroni’s independent research and development ability and the achievements that Beroni has made up to now, meanwhile, he introduced the research experience and development trend of Columbia University’s projects in the same field. The Management of Beroni Group expressed sincere thanks to Professor Walter Ian Lipkin for sharing his technical experience and suggestion.
The two parties held business talk about the research progress and development trend of ArboViroPlex rRT-PCR Test Research Program. Both parties are satisfied with the latest progress. In the future, the achievements and patents of the program will promote Beroni’s innovative strength, so the two parties would further accelerate the research and development process of the program, and promote the transformation of its achievements by taking the advantages of cutting-edge medical research equipment and scientific researchers with rich clinical trial technologies.
During the visit, Professor Walter Ian Lipkin shared his experience in the field of infectious immunology and gave some suggestion, which is benefit for further cooperation between Columbia University and Beroni Group and promoting Beroni’s strength of scientific research and innovation.