The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), has been listed as one of the candidates for the 2021 Outstanding Science and Technology Achievement Prize of CAS for its achievement in identifying the COVID-19 pathogeny.
China’s “bat woman” Shi Zhengli, and Yuan Zhiming, director of the WIV’s Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory were selected as the outstanding contributors of the WIV group candidates.
CAS published the candidate list on its official website on Friday. The award is mainly given to individuals or research groups who have made or demonstrated significant achievements in the past five years. CAS awards 10 such individuals and research groups annually.
CAS said the WIV quickly carried out pathogen identification after the outbreak of COVID-19, completed the entire virus genome sequencing and virus isolation within a short time, confirmed that the COVID-19 virus shares the same functional receptor as the SARS virus, systematically analyzed the basic biological characteristics of the virus, and revealed that coronavirus carried by bats may be the evolutionary ancestor of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The WIV scientists also established an animal model of COVID-19 infection by using human ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme2) transgenic mice and rhesus monkeys to simulate the symptoms and pathological changes of humans contracted with COVID-19.
In addition, the research group established a variety of coronavirus serological tests, and nucleic acid detection techniques were established and applied to the detection of clinical samples, which revealed multiple transmission routes of the coronavirus such as fecal-oral transmission.
The research group has completed the most comprehensive and systematic pathogenic identification research into COVID-19, which laid an important foundation and technology platform for follow-up research into tracing origins, epidemiology and pathogenic mechanism of the coronavirus, as well as the research and development of medicines and vaccines, and provided key scientific and technological support for epidemic prevention and control, CAS noted.
According to CAS, Shi is one of the main contributors of the research group for her achievement in identifying the COVID-19 pathogen and completing the coronavirus gene sequencing, virus isolation, receptor verification, mouse model establishment and other studies on pathogen identification.
The WIV and scientists at the institute have been attacked in a new round of slander from Western politicians and media. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed at Thursday’s press conference that scientists working at the WIV should be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine, rather than being blamed for being the first to discover the gene sequence of the novel coronavirus. The comments came after Shi refuted the “lab-leak” conspiracy from the US in a recent interview with the New York Times.