Wuhan Institute of Virology

Wuhan Institute of Virology
Wuhan Institute of Virology logo.png
Wuhan Institute of Virology main entrance.jpg
  • Wuhan Microbiology Laboratory
  • South China Institute of Microbiology
  • Wuhan Microbiology Institute
  • Microbiology Institute of Hubei Province
FounderChen Huagui, Gao Shangyin
HeadquartersXiaohongshan, Wuchang District, Wuhan, Hubei, China
Coordinates30°22′35″N 114°15′45″E / 30.37639°N 114.26250°E / 30.37639; 114.26250Coordinates:30°22′35″N 114°15′45″E / 30.37639°N 114.26250°E / 30.37639; 114.26250
Wang Yanyi
Secretary of Party Committee
Xiao Gengfu[1]
Deputy Director-General
Gong Peng, Guan Wuxiang, Xiao Gengfu
Parent organization
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Wuhan Institute of Virology
Simplified Chinese中国科学院武汉病毒研究所
Traditional Chinese中國科學院武漢病毒研究所

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (WIV; Chinese: 中国科学院武汉病毒研究所) is a research institute on virology administered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which reports to the State Council of the People's Republic of China.[3] The institute is one of nine independent organisations in the Wuhan Branch of the CAS.[4] Located in Jiangxia District, Wuhan, Hubei, it opened mainland China's first biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory.[5] The institute has collaborated with the Galveston National Laboratory in the United States, the Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie in France, and the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada. The institute has been an active premier research center for the study of coronaviruses.[6]


The WIV was founded in 1956 as the Wuhan Microbiology Laboratory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). In 1961, it became the South China Institute of Microbiology, and in 1962 was renamed Wuhan Microbiology Institute. In 1970, it became the Microbiology Institute of Hubei Province when the Hubei Commission of Science and Technology took over the administration. In June 1978, it was returned to the CAS and renamed Wuhan Institute of Virology.[7]

In 2003, the Chinese academy of Sciences approved the construction of mainland China's first[a] biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory at the WIV. In 2014, the WIV's National Bio-safety Laboratory was built at a cost of 300 million yuan (US$44 million), in collaboration and with assistance from the French government's CIRI lab).[8][5][9] The new laboratory building has 3000 m2 of BSL-4 space, and also 20 BSL-2 and two BSL-3 laboratories.[10] The BSL-4 facilities were accredited by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS) in January 2017,[5] with the BSL-4 level lab put into operation in January 2018.[11] The highest level biosafety installation is necessary because the Institute investigated highly dangerous viruses, such as SARS, influenza H5N1, Japanese encephalitis, and dengue, along with germ causing anthrax.[12]

The National Bio-safety Laboratory has strong ties to the Galveston National Laboratory in the University of Texas.[13] It also had ties with Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory until WIV staff scientists Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng, who were also remunerated by the Canadian government, were escorted from the Canadian lab for undisclosed reasons in July 2019.[14] Researchers from the WIV have, in the past, collaborated with international scientists in the creation of chimeric coronavirus.[15] Some researchers (notably Richard Ebright) believe this work falls under the definition of gain of function research, but many other experts dispute this classification.[16]

A number of safety precautions were taken into consideration when building the Wuhan lab. The lab was built far away from any flood plain. It was also built to withstand a magnitude-7 earthquake, even though the region has no history of earthquakes. Many Wuhan lab staff were trained at a BSL-4 lab in Lyon, France.[5] Researchers were also trained in Australia, Canada, the United States and then in-house before the lab was operational.[10] Scientists such as U.S. molecular biologist Richard H. Ebright, who had expressed concern of previous escapes of the SARS virus at Chinese laboratories in Beijing and had been troubled by the pace and scale of China's plans for expansion into BSL-4 laboratories,[5] called the institute a "world-class research institution that does world-class research in virology and immunology" while he noted that the WIV is a world leader in the study of bat coronaviruses.[13]

Coronavirus research

SARS-related coronaviruses

In 2005, a group including researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology published research into the origin of the SARS coronavirus, finding that China's horseshoe bats are natural reservoirs of SARS-like coronaviruses.[17] Continuing this work over a period of years, researchers from the institute sampled thousands of horseshoe bats in locations across China, isolating over 300 bat coronavirus sequences.[18]

In 2015, an international team including two scientists from the institute published successful research on whether a bat coronavirus could be made to infect a human cell line (HeLa). The team engineered a hybrid virus, combining a bat coronavirus with a SARS virus that had been adapted to grow in mice and mimic human disease. The hybrid virus was able to infect human cells.[15][19]

In 2017, a team from the institute announced that coronaviruses found in horseshoe bats at a cave in Yunnan contain all the genetic pieces of the SARS virus, and hypothesized that the direct progenitor of the human virus originated in this cave. The team, who spent five years sampling the bats in the cave, noted the presence of a village only a kilometer away, and warned of "the risk of spillover into people and emergence of a disease similar to SARS".[18][20]

In 2018, another paper by a team from the institute reported the results of a serological study of a sample of villagers residing near these bat caves (near Xiyang Township 夕阳乡 in Jinning District of Yunnan). According to this report, 6 out of the 218 local residents in the sample carried antibodies to the bat coronaviruses in their blood, indicating the possibility of transmission of the infections from bats to people.[21]

Prior to and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, coronavirus research at the WIV has been conducted in BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories.[22]

COVID-19 pandemic

In December 2019, cases of pneumonia associated with an unknown coronavirus were reported to health authorities in Wuhan. The institute checked its coronavirus collection and found the new virus had 96% genetic similarity to RaTG13, a virus its researchers had discovered in horseshoe bats in southwest China.[23][24] This strain is linked to travels made regularly between 2012 and 2015 by a WIV team visiting Yunnan Province, about a thousand miles from Wuhan.[25]

As the virus spread worldwide, the institute continued its investigation. In February 2020, a team led by Shi Zhengli at the institute were the first to identify, analyze and name the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), upload it to public databases for scientists around the world to understand,[26][27][28] and publish papers in Nature.[29] On 19 February 2020, the lab released a letter on its website describing how they successfully obtained the whole virus genome.[30] In February 2020, in a move that raised concerns regarding intellectual property rights,[31] the institute applied for a patent in China for the use of remdesivir, an experimental drug owned by Gilead Sciences, which the institute found inhibited the virus in vitro.[32] The WIV said it would not exercise its new Chinese patent rights "if relevant foreign companies intend to contribute to the prevention and control of China's epidemic."[33]

In April 2020, the Trump administration terminated an NIH grant to research how coronaviruses spread from bats to humans.[34][35] New York-based, NIH–funded EcoHealth Alliance has been the subject of controversy and increased scrutiny due to its ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.[36][37][38] Under political pressure, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) withdrew funding to EcoHealth Alliance in July 2020.[39]

Virus origin allegations

The laboratory has been the focus of conspiracy theories[40][41] and unsubstantiated speculation about the origin of the virus.[42][43] This has been a source of political tension between China and other countries, including Australia,[44] and the United States.[45] There have been allegations that the initial outbreak was provoked by either manipulation or accidental release of a virus held in the WIV facilities, and that the participants may have conspired to cover it up.[46] Shi Zhengli denied that there was a connection between the WIV and the emergence of COVID-19.[47] In February 2021, after investigations in Wuhan, the WHO team said a laboratory leak origin for COVID-19 was "extremely unlikely",[48][49] confirming what experts expected about the likely origins and early transmission.[50] In response to the report, politicians, including Joe Biden[51] and Boris Johnson,[52] as well as WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have called for further investigations into the origins of COVID-19.[53][54][55][56][57] The scientific opinion that an accidental leak is possible, but unlikely, has remained steady.[58]

Research centers

The Institute contains the following research centers:[59]

  • Center for Emerging Infectious Disease
  • Chinese Virus Resources and Bioinformatics Center
  • Center of Applied and Environmental Microbiology
  • Department of Analytical Biochemistry and Biotechnology
  • Department of Molecular Virology

See also


  1. ^ As of February 2017, there were already two BSL-4 labs in Taiwan.[5]


  1. ^ "Current leader" 现任领导. Wuhan Institute of Virology, www.whiov.ac.cn. Archived from the original on 24 February 2020. Retrieved 24 February 2020. Wang Yanyi, born in 1981, PhD, researcher. She is currently the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the leader of the molecular immunology discipline group... Xiao Gengfu, born in 1966, PhD, researcher. Current Secretary of the Party Committee and Deputy Director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology...
  2. ^ "Spotlight on Wuhan". Nature. 13 May 2015. doi:10.1038/nj0447. ISSN 1476-4687. S2CID 214693785.
  3. ^ "Fact check: The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not owned by GlaxoSmithKline". Reuters. 17 December 2020. Archived from the original on 30 March 2021. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  4. ^ "About Us: Brief introduction". Wuhan Branch. Chinese Academy of Sciences.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Cyranoski, David (23 February 2017). "Inside the Chinese lab poised to study world's most dangerous pathogens". Nature. 542 (7642): 399–400. Bibcode:2017Natur.542..399C. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.21487. PMID 28230144.
  6. ^ "The 'Occam's Razor Argument' Has Not Shifted in Favor of a Lab Leak". Snopes.com. Snopes. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  7. ^ "History". Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  8. ^ "Inside the Wuhan lab: French engineering, deadly viruses and a big mystery". Washington Post.
  9. ^ "China Inaugurates the First Biocontainment Level 4 Laboratory in Wuhan". Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 3 February 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  10. ^ a b Report of the WHO Consultative Meeting on High/Maximum Containment (Biosafety Level 4) Laboratories Networking, Lyon, France, 13–15 December 2017 Archived 8 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018 (WHO/WHE/CPI/2018.40).
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  12. ^ Dany Shoham (2015) China's Biological Warfare Programme: An Integrative Study with Special Reference to Biological Weapons Capabilities, Journal of Defence Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2 April–June 2015, pp. 131–156 China’s Biological Warfare Programme. An Integrative Study with Special Reference to Biological Weapons Capabilities Archived 10 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ a b Taylor, Adam (29 January 2020). "Experts debunk fringe theory linking China's coronavirus to weapons research". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 31 January 2020. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  14. ^ Pauls, Karen (15 July 2019). "University severs ties with two researchers who were escorted out of National Microbiology Lab". CBC News. Archived from the original on 15 April 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  15. ^ a b Vineet D Menachery; Boyd L Yount; Kari Debbink; et al. (9 November 2015). "A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence". Nature Medicine. 21 (12): 1508–1513. doi:10.1038/NM.3985. ISSN 1078-8956. PMC 4797993. PMID 26552008. S2CID 5953778. Wikidata Q36702376. (erratum)
  16. ^ Robertson, Lori (1 July 2021). Annenberg Public Policy Center https://www.factcheck.org/2021/05/the-wuhan-lab-and-the-gain-of-function-disagreement/. Retrieved 26 January 2022. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ Li, Wendong; Shi, Zhengli; Yu, Meng; Ren, Wuze; Smith, Craig; Epstein, Jonathan H; Wang, Hanzhong; Crameri, Gary; Hu, Zhihong; Zhang, Huajun; Zhang, Jianhong; McEachern, Jennifer; Field, Hume; Daszak, Peter; Eaton, Bryan T; Zhang, Shuyi; Wang, Lin-Fa (28 October 2005). "Bats Are Natural Reservoirs of SARS-Like Coronaviruses". Science. 310 (5748): 676–679. Bibcode:2005Sci...310..676L. doi:10.1126/science.1118391. PMID 16195424. S2CID 2971923. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  18. ^ a b Cyranoski, David (1 December 2017). "Bat cave solves mystery of deadly SARS virus – and suggests new outbreak could occur". Nature. 552 (7683): 15–16. Bibcode:2017Natur.552...15C. doi:10.1038/d41586-017-07766-9.
  19. ^ Butler, Declan (12 November 2015). "Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18787.
  20. ^ Drosten, C.; Hu, B.; Zeng, L.-P.; Yang, X.-L.; Ge, Xing-Yi; Zhang, Wei; Li, Bei; Xie, J.-Z.; Shen, X.-R.; Zhang, Yun-Zhi; Wang, N.; Luo, D.-S.; Zheng, X.-S.; Wang, M.-N.; Daszak, P.; Wang, L.-F.; Cui, J.; Shi, Z.-L. (2017). "Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus". PLOS Pathogens. 13 (11): e1006698. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1006698. PMC 5708621. PMID 29190287.
  21. ^ Wang, N.; Li, S. Y.; Yang, X. L.; Huang, H. M.; Zhang, Y. J.; Guo, H.; Luo, C. M.; Miller, M.; Zhu, G.; Chmura, A. A.; Hagan, E.; Zhou, J. H.; Zhang, Y. Z.; Wang, L. F.; Daszak, P.; Shi, Z. L. (2018). "Serological Evidence of Bat SARS-Related Coronavirus Infection in Humans". China Virologica Sinica. 33 (1): 104–107. doi:10.1007/s12250-018-0012-7. PMC 6178078. PMID 29500691.
  22. ^ "Reply to Science Magazine" (PDF). sciencemag.org: 9. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  23. ^ Qiu, Jane (11 March 2020). "How China's "Bat Woman" Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus". Scientific American. Archived from the original on 18 March 2020. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  24. ^ Rathore, Jitendra Singh; Ghosh, Chaitali (August 25, 2020). "Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), a newly emerged pathogen: an overview". Pathogens and Disease. 78 (6). doi:10.1093/femspd/ftaa042. ISSN 2049-632X. OCLC 823140442. PMC 7499575. PMID 32840560.
  25. ^ "The Mysterious Case of the COVID-19 Lab-Leak Theory". The New Yorker. 12 October 2021.
  26. ^ Zhou, Peng; Yang, Xing-Lou; Wang, Xian-Guang; Hu, Ben; Zhang, Lei; Zhang, Wei; et al. (March 2020). "A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin". Nature. 579 (7798): 270–273. Bibcode:2020Natur.579..270Z. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2012-7. ISSN 1476-4687. PMC 7095418. PMID 32015507.
  27. ^ Buckley, Chris; Steven Lee Myers (1 February 2020). "As New Coronavirus Spread, China's Old Habits Delayed Fight". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 19 March 2020. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  28. ^ Cohen, Jon (1 February 2020). "Mining coronavirus genomes for clues to the outbreak's origins". Science. Archived from the original on 3 February 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2020. The viral sequences, most researchers say, also knock down the idea the pathogen came from a virology institute in Wuhan.
  29. ^ Zhengli, Shi; Team of 29 researchers at the WIV (3 February 2020). "A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin". Nature. 579 (7798): 270–273. Bibcode:2020Natur.579..270Z. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2012-7. PMC 7095418. PMID 32015507.
  30. ^ "A letter to all staff and graduate students". WIV Official Website (in Chinese). 19 February 2020. Archived from the original on 26 April 2020. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  31. ^ "China Wants to Patent Gilead's Experimental Coronavirus Drug". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on 6 February 2020. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  32. ^ Zhengli, Shi; Team of 10 researchers at the WIV (4 February 2020). "Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro". Nature. 30 (3): 269–271. doi:10.1038/s41422-020-0282-0. PMC 7054408. PMID 32020029.
  33. ^ Grady, Denise (6 February 2020). "China Begins Testing an Antiviral Drug in Coronavirus Patients". New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 February 2020. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  34. ^ Subbaraman, Nidhi (21 August 2020). "'Heinous!': Coronavirus researcher shut down for Wuhan-lab link slams new funding restrictions". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-02473-4. PMID 32826989. S2CID 225249608. Archived from the original on 14 February 2021. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
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  41. ^ Evans, Nicholas G. (26 August 2020). "Human Infection Challenge Studies: a Test for the Social Value Criterion of Research Ethics". mSphere. 5 (4). doi:10.1128/mSphere.00669-20. PMC 7364225. PMID 32669462. Some may verge on the unbelievable, such as the conspiracy theory that gain-of-function research conducted on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like coronaviruses in 2015 is connected to the emergence of COVID-19 that made it to British tabloids
  42. ^ Graham, Rachel L.; Baric, Ralph S. (May 2020). "SARS-CoV-2: Combating Coronavirus Emergence". Immunity. 52 (5): 734–736. doi:10.1016/j.immuni.2020.04.016. PMC 7207110. PMID 32392464.
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  44. ^ "Australia called for a COVID-19 probe. China responded with a trade war". ABC News. ABC News. 2 January 2021. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
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  49. ^ Mallapaty, Smriti; Maxmen, Amy; Callaway, Ewen (10 February 2021). "'Major stones unturned': COVID origin search must continue after WHO report, say scientists". Nature. 590 (7846): 371–372. Bibcode:2021Natur.590..371M. doi:10.1038/d41586-021-00375-7. PMID 33574591.
  50. ^ Fujiyama, Emily Wang; Moritsugu, Ken (11 February 2021). "EXPLAINER: What the WHO coronavirus experts learned in Wuhan". AP News. Archived from the original on 27 February 2021. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
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  55. ^ Maxmen, Amy (27 May 2021). "Divisive COVID 'lab leak' debate prompts dire warnings from researchers". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-021-01383-3. The investigation concluded that an animal origin was much more likely than a lab leak. But since then, some politicians, journalists and scientists have put forward unsubstantiated claims linking the coronavirus to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), in the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected.
  56. ^ Gorman, James; Zimmer, Carl (13 May 2021). "Another Group of Scientists Calls for Further Inquiry into Origins of the Coronavirus". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  57. ^ "WHO chief says it was 'premature' to rule out COVID lab leak". AP News. 15 July 2021.
  58. ^ See, for example, the following:
  59. ^ "Administration". Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2020.

External links

Media files used on this page

SARS-CoV-2 (Wikimedia colors).svg
Author/Creator: Geraki, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
SARS-CoV-2 logo in Wikimedia colors
Wuhan Institute of Virology main entrance.jpg
Author/Creator: Ureem2805, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Wuhan Institute of Virology is a research institute by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Jiangxia District, south of the Wuhan city, Hubei province, China.
Wuhan Institute of Virology logo.png
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This is the logo of the Wuhan Institute of Virology