Deciphering CCP’s Virus Research Programs – Part 1: the 973 Program

By 22rOn 

Published June 11, 2021

The purpose of this series is to explain the connections between the Chinese Communist Party’s virology research programs since 2005 and the research institutions involved, including those in Hong Kong. All information is sourced from the Internet. The analysis and conclusions presented here reflect author’s own views only.

Below is an excerpt from the original report Disclosure Report on CCP’s Virus Research Programs and Projects, with edits for online publishing.

In this series, we examine the blueprint of the Communist Party’s virus research program by focusing on the Research on Cross-Species Infection and Transmission Mechanism of Major Outbreak of Human-Animal Infections with Animal Origin research program (hereinafter referred to as the 2016 Virus Program).

The 2016 Virus Program is part of the CCP’s 973 Program and Five-Year Plan, and is closely linked to the Infectious Diseases Control and Prevention Special Program. In this part, we explain the connections between 2016 Virus Program and 973 Program.

The 2016 Virus Program and the 973 Program

            The 973 Program is also known as the National Key Basic Research Development Program. “Aiming at solving major scientific problems for the strategic needs of the country”, the 973 Program is established in 1997 by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the State Council, the Ministry of Finance of the State Council, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and relevant authorities. The Ministry of Science and Technology convenes an expert advisory group for each period, which has the policy-making and supervisory capacity over the establishment of the 973 program for that period. Each period is generally 5-year long, with a mid-term assessment after the 2nd year, in order to adjust the plans for the next 3 years accordingly. In February 2016, the Ministry of Science and Technology of the China incorporated 973 Program into the National Key R&D Program, and the 973 Program was subsequently replaced by it (equivalent to a name change, with the entity retained). The implementation of the program is supported by funding from the Ministry of Finance and the Council of Foundations.

            Based on data available online, we collected CCP’s 973 Program programs directly related to viral research during the period 1999-2015 in the following table:

YearProgram Ref.Program nameChief ScientistPrimary Research Unit
1999Basic studies on prevention and control of important infectious diseasesQi JinThe Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine
20052005CB522900Research on pathogenic mechanisms of important human pathogensQi JinThe Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine
20052005CB523000Research on the mechanism of interspecies infection and transmission of viruses of animal originFu GaoInstitute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Science
20052005CB523200Molecular mechanisms of pathogenic variation and pathogenesis of major infectious diseases in animalsGuangzhi TongHarbin Veterinary Research Institute, CAAS
20062006CB504200Study of human immunodeficiency virus biology and immune response mechanismLinqi ZhangChinese Academy of Medical Sciences
20062006CB504300  Basic Research on Infection and Immunity  Hongbing Shu

Guangxia Gao
  Wuhan University
20092009CB522100  Basic Research on Respiratory Diseases and Injuries  Nanshan Zhong  Guangzhou Medical University
20102010CB530100  Research on the invasion mechanism of important viruses  Qinxue Hu  Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS
20102010CB833600– Structural basis and functional studies of antibody-antigen molecular recognition  Yajun Guo  The Second Military Medical University
20102010CB911800Biology of cellular antiviral innate immunity-related proteinsDeyin GuoWuhan University
20112011CB504700Molecular mechanisms of interspecies infection and disease transmission of important virusesFu GaoInstitute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Science
20112011CB504800  Molecular mechanisms of latent viral infection  Fenyong Liu  Wuhan University
20112011CB504900Research on the variation pattern and pathogenic mechanism of important pathogensQi JinInstitute of Pathogenic Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences
20122012CB910200Identification, structure and function of natural immune response-related proteinsHongbing ShuWuhan University
20122012CB911100  Study of the molecular mechanisms of virus-host cell interactions  Xiaofang Yu  Jilin University
20122012CB518900  Basic research on virus-cell interactions leading to inflammation  Jianguo Wu  Wuhan University
20122012CB519000  Molecular mechanism of formation and maintenance of persistent infection of important viruses  Zhenghong Yuan  Fudan University
20142014CB542500  Mechanisms of humoral response and functional remodeling in chronic viral infections  Hai Qi  Tsinghua University
20142014CB542600Study of the mechanism of animal virus-host interactions  Zhengfan Jiang  Beijing University
20142014CB542700Mechanism of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus-host interaction/regulation of virus replication and host immune response  HanchunYangChina Agricultural University
20142014CB542800Structural studies of pathogens of new and re-emerging infectious diseases  Zihe RaoNankai University
20152015CB910500Cellular-molecular mechanisms of dynamic interaction between influenza and other important viruses and hostsJilong Chen  Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Science

Table 1: Virus-related research programs under the 973 Program during the period of 1998-2015

We can see the following clues from this table:

  1. The mapping of the research programs from 1998-2005 suggests that the non-military programs related to virus research may have first started at the Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. HOU Deyun(侯德云), one of the leaders of the institute at the time, was a leading Chinese molecular virologist and mentored a number of key figures in virology research in China. The institute was reorganized in 2002, and became Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been a core participant in virus research ever since
  2. All of the universities involved in the virus research, apart from the relevant research institutions, are basically the top universities in China, which shows that the research capability of the universities on viruses is an important force that the Chinese Communist Party relies on to implement these virus programs
  3. Most of the researchers involved in the virus research mentioned above were probably also involved in the 2016 Virus Program and became central figures or leaders of important projects/sub-projects of the program, which can be identified/filtered from CCP’s media reports and academic articles
  4. The intersection of different disciplines within the topics of the different programs forms the basis for the collaborations among the various research institutions and universities, as well as for the systematic study of the virus

(Texts in the picture translated below:

Research on the Molecular Mechanism of Interspecies Infection and Disease Transmission of Important Viruses launched

On April 8, a kick-off meeting was held in Beijing for the implementation of the 973 Program, Molecular Mechanisms of Interspecies Infection and Transmission of Important Viruses, hosted by researcher Fu GAO(高福) of the Institute of Microbiology. Researchers and leaders from China Agricultural University, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Military Veterinary Medicine, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Institute of Microbial Epidemiology, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Capital Medical University and many other units attended the meeting. Relevant leaders from the Department of Basic Science and Technology and the Bureau of Life Sciences and Biotechnology of Chinese Academy of Sciences were invited to attend the kick-off meeting. Researcher Huanchun Chen, researcher Xinwen Chen and researcher Xuepeng Cai from the program expert committee attended the kick-off meeting.

This program is a continuation of the 973 program Research on the Mechanism of Interspecies Infection and Transmission of Viruses of Animal Origin (2005-2010), which was first launched in 2005. Based on the results achieved, the program has further focused the research content and adjusted and optimized the research team in order to obtain more breakthroughs in the interspecies infection and pathogenesis of important viruses such as avian influenza virus and SARS virus.)

Directly related to the 2016 Virus Program are two programs numbered 2005CB523000 and 2011CB504700, whose chief scientist, Fu GAO(高福), is the current director of the CDC, and has been working on the cross-species infection and transmission of human-animal diseases for many years. From Figure 1, we can see the following clues:

  1. The later 2011CB504700 program builds on the earlier 2005CB523000 program. Also, we can see that the research focus has gradually shifted to avian influenza viruses and other viruses such as SARS (CoV).
  2. The fact that the research in the pathogens of human-animal diseases has received long-term state funding from the Chinese authorities indicates that the research on cross-species transmission of viruses has been ongoing for at least 15 years, and that this is a research direction of interest to the high-level decision makers of the CCP
  3. The draft clearly states that the participating units of the 2011-2015 virus research program include the Institute of Microbiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (the lead organization), Wuhan Institute of Virology, Institute of Microbial Epidemiology of Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and Institute of Viral Diseases, among others. Considering the disclosed connections between Wuhan Institute of Virology and COVID-19, this suggests that the series of virus research is likely to have close ties to COVID-19, and deserves further investigation.
  4. The participating entities mentioned above are all involved in the 2016 Virus Program (to be analyzed in the following sections of this report), with the same research projects. This suggests that the 2016 Virus Program is a continuation of Gao Fu’s virus research program during the period of 2005-2015

In addition, if we examine Gao Fu’s two program proposals during 2005-2015 (Research Program on Mechanisms of Interspecies Infection and Transmission of Viruses of Animal Origin and Research Program on Molecular Mechanisms of Pathogenesis of Interspecies Infection and Transmission of Important Viruses, see reference available in later parts of this series), the content of both program proposals and the logical relationship between them not only support the above conclusions, but also serve as important entry points for further analysis of the 2016 Virus Program.

Editor’s summary

The many connections between the 2016 Virus Program and the earlier programs in 973 Program suggest that the CCP might have been conducting covert bio-weapon research for more than 10 years.

Translation: 文花开

Proofread: DT团队 & 文永

Cover photo: GNEWS海报组 晴天

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