What Danielle Anderson Said About Wuhan Lab Leak Theory

Dr. Danielle Anderson, an Australian researcher who was reportedly the only foreign scientist to have conducted research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)'s BSL-4 lab in the weeks leading up to the first known cases of COVID-19 were detected in China, has said: "What people are saying is just not how it is."

WIV has come under scrutiny with allegations that it was involved in gain-of-function research and may have been the site of a lab leak.

In late May this year, President Joe Biden ordered U.S. intelligence officials to "redouble their efforts" on the investigation of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it had emerged "from a laboratory accident."

In an interview with Bloomberg published Sunday, Anderson said the lab's functions and activities were more routine than how they have been portrayed in the media.

"It's not that it was boring, but it was a regular lab that worked in the same way as any other high-containment lab," she told Bloomberg.

Who is Danielle Anderson?

According to the COVID-19 Commission of The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, Anderson is currently a senior research fellow at the Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

Bloomberg reported Anderson's stint at WIV ended in November 2019. She was described as an expert in bat-borne viruses.

Back in March 2020, the South China Morning Post published an article based on Chinese government data that said the first known case of COVID-19 can be traced back to November 17, 2019—possibly a 55-year-old person from the Hubei province.

Chinese officials did not officially identify the first case of COVID-19 until December 8, 2019.

Bloomberg reported Anderson began working with Wuhan researchers in 2016 in her role as the scientific director of the biosafety lab at Singapore's Duke-NUS Medical School.

The Lancet's COVID-19 Commission website states: "In January 2020, while located at Duke-NUS Medical School, Dr. Anderson and her team isolated SARS-CoV-2 from a clinical sample from one of the first COVID-19 patients in Singapore.

"The team developed a serological assay for COVID-19 (now known as cPass, GenScript), which vitally assisted the Singapore authorities with contact tracing efforts."

Bloomberg reported the Australian scientist was on the ground in Wuhan when experts believe the virus, which is now known as COVID-19, began to spread.

She reportedly made daily visits to the research center for a period in late 2019, traveling with a group every morning on a shuttle bus to the institute, and socializing with researchers.

"We went to dinners together, lunches, we saw each other outside of the lab," she told Bloomberg.

Anderson on Wuhan lab leak theory

Anderson said that if presented with evidence that the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab, she "could foresee how things could maybe happen," she told Bloomberg. "I'm not naive enough to say I absolutely write this [the lab leak theory] off."

However, she added: "The pandemic is something no one could have imagined on this scale.

"The virus was in the right place at the right time and everything lined up to cause this disaster," she said.

Wuhan lab safety conditions

Anderson was reportedly impressed with the institute's maximum biocontainment lab, which she visited before it formally opened in 2018. Bloomberg reported the facility has the highest biosafety designation. Air, water and waste must be filtered and sterilized before it leaves the building.

Bloomberg reported Anderson said there were strict rules and regulations in place aimed to contain pathogens that are being studied. Researchers reportedly underwent 45 hours of training to be certified to work independently in the lab, according to Anderson.

The Australian scientist told Bloomberg that the induction process for the lab was "very, very extensive." Researchers were required to demonstrate their knowledge of containment procedures and their competency in wearing air-pressured suits, Anderson said.

Anderson recalled entering and leaving the facility was also a meticulous process. Those exiting the building were required to take both a chemical shower and a personal shower and the timings for these showers were precisely planned, according to Anderson.

Anderson told Bloomberg the Wuhan lab uses a bespoke system to make and monitor its disinfectants daily. The scientist said she was connected via a headset to colleagues in the lab's command center, which allowed for constant communication and vigilance around safety at the lab.

Illness among Wuhan lab researchers

In late May, The Wall Street Journal reported that according to a U.S. intelligence report, three researchers from the WIV sought hospital care in November 2019, a month before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in China.

Bloomberg reported the names of the scientists who were allegedly hospitalized have not been revealed.

Anderson told Bloomberg that no one she knew at the Wuhan institute was ill towards the end of 2019.

She explained there is a protocol in place for reporting symptoms corresponding with pathogens being studied in high-risk containment labs.

She told Bloomberg that in December 2019, there was no word among scientists about an illness sweeping across the lab.

Anderson told Bloomberg: "If people were sick, I assume that I would have been sick—and I wasn't.

"I was tested for coronavirus in Singapore before I was vaccinated, and had never had it," she said.

Anderson told Bloomberg "there was no chatter" among Anderson's collaborators in Wuhan who came to Singapore at the end of December 2019 for a gathering on the Nipah virus.

"Scientists are gossipy and excited. There was nothing strange from my point of view going on at that point that would make you think something is going on here," Anderson recalled.

Bloomberg reported the Australian researcher's work at the Wuhan lab, and her funding, concluded after the pandemic emerged and her focus turned to the novel coronavirus.

WIV has previously denied anyone from the Wuhan lab was infected with COVID-19 and that the lab was the source of the outbreak.

In a statement back in late March this year, WIV said: "Recently, some foreign media have once again speculated that Wuhan Virus Institute may be the source of the outbreak...

"Before December 30, 2019, our institute had not been exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2); so far, our employees and graduate students have maintained 'zero infection' of SARS-CoV-2," the statement said.

A spokesperson for the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said Anderson has declined Newsweek's request for further comment as "she has received a number of requests and she is unable to facilitate them all."

Update 6/30/21 11:29 a.m. ET: This article was updated with a response from the Peter Doherty Institute.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
An aerial view over the P4 laboratory on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan, China in May 2020. Dr. Danielle Anderson, who is reportedly the only foreign scientist to have conducted research at the WIV's BSL-4 lab weeks before the first known cases of COVID-19 were detected in China, has shared insight on the Wuhan lab leak theory. Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images