A Chinese military scientist with ties to the United States reportedly filed a patent for a COVID-19 vaccine well before the disease was declared a global pandemic.
Yusen Zhou, who worked for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), lodged the paperwork on behalf of the Chinese political party on February 24 2020, according to The Australian newspaper.
That date was just five weeks after China first confirmed human transmission of the coronavirus.
Zhou is also said to have 'worked closely' with scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), including Shi Zhengli - the deputy director of the lab who is famous for her research on coronavirus in bats.
Their relationship is likely to strengthen speculation that the virus leaked from the lab and that China was aware that it was spreading between humans long before they alerted the international community.
Zhou mysteriously died less than three months after he filed the patent. The New York Post claims his death was only reported in one Chinese media report, despite the fact he was one of the country's most prominent scientists.
Zhou had previously worked on research linked to the US institutions, including the University of Minnesota and the New York Blood Center, the newspaper reported.
In recent weeks, many of the world's top scientists have pushed to determine whether the virus was leaked from the WIV.
The lab leak theory was initially dismissed by many in the media and academic communities.
US President Joe Biden last week ordered intelligence agencies to launch a probe into whether COVID was man-made after all.
More than a dozen national Labs run by the Department of Energy have been ordered to assist the intelligence community in a 90-day sprint to examine the origin of the virus.
The labs have been tapped 'because of their ability to crunch massive amounts of data' with their advanced supercomputers, a White House official told CNN.
'We want the science to be a big part of this,' the White House official told CNN. 'We are going to use the full resources of our intelligence and scientific community to try to get to the bottom of this.'
Biden is also urging U.S. intelligence agencies and those of allies to hunt for new information that could shed light on whether China covered up a lab leak.
Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, said the Biden administration's response was 'better late than never, but far from adequate.'
'Our intelligence community has been looking at this now for 15 months. They've done good work on it, but in the end the answer lies in the hands of Chinese communists, not people working for American intelligence agencies,' he told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Cotton said that officials in Beijing have not been forthcoming about how the pandemic began. 'We should be insisting that they come clean, that they provide us a clear and unvarnished look at what was happening in the Wuhan labs,' he said.
Circumstantial evidence has long raised questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where researchers were known to be conducting experiments on bat coronavirus strains similar to the one responsible for COVID-19.
China insisted early and often that the virus did not leak from the lab, claiming that crossover to humans must have occurred at a 'wet market' in Wuhan that sold live animals.
Perhaps driven by animosity for Donald Trump, who embraced the lab leak theory early on, the mainstream U.S. media and academics heaped scorn on the possibility, calling it an unhinged conspiracy theory.
But new evidence, including reports of three workers at the Wuhan lab who fell seriously ill with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, has forced a sober reassessment among doubters.
Frustration with China increased this week after Beijing said that it would not participate in any further investigations by the World Health Organization.
Biden rebuked China in his announcement of the new intelligence review, calling on allies to help 'press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence.'
Source: The Daily Mail