BigBiology Podcasts
Episode 105: Follow the data: the search for COVID’s origin (with Alina Chan)



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Art Woods, Marty Martin


Alina Chan


On this episode, we talk with Alina Chan, postdoc at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and co-author with Matt Ridley of Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 could have plausibly jumped into humans in Wuhan via one of two paths. The first is zoonotic transfer from wild bats to humans, possibly via an intermediate animal host. The second is some kind of lab accident: researchers working on a SARS-CoV-2-like virus accidentally became infected with it and then transmitted it to others in Wuhan. Although early discussions among virologists reached the consensus that the origin was almost surely zoonotic, more recent discussions have started to take the lab-leak theory seriously. Unfortunately, we still lack conclusive evidence in support of either hypothesis. And, as public leaders have co-opted the investigation for nonscientific reasons, the subject of COVID’s origin has become practically taboo.

Alina’s approach is to “follow the data,” leaving no stone unturned, and we believe that it is our responsibility as scientists to do the same. We talk to Alina about her book, as well as the many new things that have been revealed about COVID’s origins since its 2021 publication. Towards the end of the chat, we discuss the implications of what we’ve learned about SARS-CoV-2 for how we should prepare for and deal with future pandemics.

Cover photo: Keating Shahmehri

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1 hour, 25 minutes, 18 seconds

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Episode 105: Follow the data: the search for COVID’s origin (with Alina Chan)