Open Letter To Nature Medicine

July 19 – Petition to retract “Proximal Origins” is launched (click here to sign; 4,809 signatures as of Nov 7)
July 26 – Open letter sent to Nature Medicine chief editor Joao Monteiro
Aug 1 – Nature Medicine acknowledged receipt of the letter


104 days with no formal response

Updated Nov 7, 2023 

July 26, 2023

Dear Editors:

On March 17, 2020, Nature Medicine published a Correspondence entitled “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2” (1). The paper assessed the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2 and concluded, “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus” and “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”

The paper played an influential role—indeed, the central role—in communicating the false narrative that science established that SARS-CoV-2 entered humans through natural spillover, and not through research-related spillover (2-7). The paper was promoted by Joao Monteiro the chief editor of Nature Medicine, as an exceptionally important and definitive research study (“great work”; “will put conspiracy theories about the origin of #SARSCoV2 to rest “; 8). The paper has been cited more than 5,800 times, making it the 68th most cited publication in all fields in 2020, the 16th most cited publication in biology in 2020, and the 8th most cited publication on the subject of COVID-19 in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Email messages and Slack direct messages among authors of the paper obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process or by the U.S. Congress and publicly released in full in or before July 2023 (2-7), show that the authors did not believe the core conclusions of the paper at the time it was written, at the time it was submitted for publication, and at the time it was published. The authors’ statements show that the paper was, and is, a product of scientific misconduct. 

It is imperative that this misleading and damaging product of scientific misconduct be removed from the scientific literature.

We, as STEM and STEM-policy professionals, call upon Nature Medicine to publish an expression of editorial concern for the paper and to begin a process of withdrawal or retraction of the paper.

Signers (in alphabetical order)

Amir Attaran, University of Ottawa
Paul Babitzke, Pennsylvania State University
Ed Balkovic, University of Rhode Island (added July 29, 2023)
Alina Chan, Broad Institute
Richard Crowell, Blackburn College (added August 1, 2023)
Andrew Dickens, Dayspring Cancer Clinic (added July 29, 2023)
Joseph Dudley, University of Alaska Fairbanks (added July 29, 2023)
Richard H. Ebright, Rutgers University
Wafik El-Deiry, Brown University (added August 5, 2023)
Mohamed E. El Zowalaty, One Health Initiative
Dorothy Erie, University of North Carolina (added July 27, 2023)
David Fisman, University of Toronto
Andrew Goffinet, University of Louvain
Richard N. Goldstein, Harvard University
Elisa D. Harris, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland
Neil L. Harrison, Columbia University
Cindy Hooter, UAMS (added August 2, 2023)
Andrew Huff, Risk Factor Consulting (added August 3, 2023)
Laura Kahn, One Health Initiative
Hideki Kakeya, University of Tsukuba
Justin B. Kinney, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Tatsu Kobayakawa, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
Stephen Lagana, Columbia University Irving Medical Center (added August 4, 2023)
Yanna Lambrinidou,Virginia Tech
Jonathan Latham, Bioscience Resource Project (added July 29, 2023)
Milton Leitenberg, University of Maryland
Eugene J. Lengerich, Pennsylvania State University (added July 27, 2023)
Allen A. Lenoir, Bioterrorism/Pediatrics Infectious Disease Center
Tom Letessier, Institute of Zoology, ZSL (added August 2, 2023)
Austin Lin, State University of New York (added July 29, 2023)
Ulrich Loening, Centre for Human Ecology (added July 29, 2023)
Neal Lue, Weill Cornell Medicine (added July 29, 2023)
Benjamin Machta, Yale University (added August 11, 2023)
Steven Massey, University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras (added July 29, 2023)
Tobias Mattei, St Louis University (added August 2, 2023)
Pankaj Mehta, Boston University (added July 28, 2023)
Jamie Metzl, Atlantic Council
Hideyuki Motohashi, Tokyo Medical University (added August 3, 2023)
David L. Nelson, Baylor College of Medicine
Bryce E. Nickels, Rutgers University
Takeshi Nitta, University of Tokyo
Andrew Noymer, University of California, Irvine
Roger Pielke Jr., University of Colorado, Boulder
Bernhard Redl, Medical University Innsbruck (added August 11, 2023)
Joseph Schaefer, SunStar Systems, Inc. (added July 29, 2023)
Harish Seshadri, Indian Institute of Science
Rick Sheridan, Emske Phytochem
Diederick Sprangers, ENSSER (added August 2, 2023)
Eric S. Starbuck, Save the Children
Tyler Stepke, Johns Hopkins University
Atsushi Tanaka, Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University
Hiroshi Tauchi, Ibaraki University
Anton van Der Merwe, University of Oxford
Alex Washburne, Selva Analytics
Andre Watson, Ligandal
Roland Wiesendanger, University of Hamburg
Si Williams, Imperial College (added July 29, 2023)
Lise Wilson, Siena College (added August 2, 2023)
Susan Wright, University of Michigan


(1) Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes & Robert F. Garry, The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2, Nature Medicine, volume 26, pages 450–452 (2020)

(2) Interim Majority Staff Report – The Proximal Origin of a Cover-Up: Did the “Bethesda Boys” Downplay a Lab Leak?, July 12, 2023

(3) Amid Partisan Politicking, Revelations on a Covid Origins Article, The Nation, July 12, 2023

(4) House Republicans Accidentally Released a Trove of Damning Covid Documents, The Intercept, July 12, 2023

(5) Top Scientists Misled Congress About Covid Origins, Newly Released Emails And Messages Show, Public, July 18, 2023

(6) “So Friggin’ Likely”: New Covid Documents Reveal Unparalleled Media Deception, Racket News, July 18, 2023

(7) Covid Origins Scientist Denounces Reporting On His Messages As A “Conspiracy Theory, Public, July 20, 2023


Sign the petition to demand Nature Medicine retract “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2”

CLICK HERE to download a searchable PDF file of the Proximal Origins Slack communications.


Source: Covid Origins Scientist Denounces Reporting On His Messages As A “Conspiracy Theory, Public, July 20, 2023

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