The idea the coronavirus that caused COVID-19 leaked out of a bio-safety laboratory in Wuhan, China has become increasingly accepted. That’s frightening enough. But more worrisome is evidence that this lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), was designed from the beginning to develop and tinker with dangerous viruses to make them more virulent and contagious — ostensibly in the name of medical science. And, that there were links between the lab and US scientists, government agencies and NGOs. The more we learn about the origins of COVID-19, the more disturbing they become.Early on in the pandemic, much of the scientific establishment decided the virus must have been transmitted from an animal to a human, likely at a huge open-air marketplace in Wuhan. Hard evidence of this has been scarce, however, and a number of U.S. government agencies, such as the FBI and the Department of Energy, have supported the “lab-leak” theory instead.So too did a recent US Senate Report, called Muddy Waters: The Origins of COVID-19 Report, whose author, Robert Kadlec, was head of the Trump Administration’s vaccine development program, Operation Warp Speed. “I can honestly say there’s no evidence to support this virus came from an animal. And there’s a lot of evidence to support this came from a lab,” Kadlec recently said.Specifically the SAR-CoV-2 virus was the result of what’s called “gain-of-function” research — genetically altering an organism to enhance its normal behaviour. In the case of a virus, that means making it more transmissible and/or more virulent. This questionable practice is intended to help in the study of dangerous pathogens for the development of treatments and vaccines to prevent fatal infections.But there’s a grave risk to such activity: accidental or intentional release into the general population. New evidence, much of it from documents released under the US Freedom of Information Act, has demonstrated that the WIV was involved in gain-of-function research on coronaviruses under renowned virologist Shi Zhengli.A paper published in 2015 by Shi and University of North Carolina epidemiologist Ralph Baric revealed the duo collaborated to create a new “chimaeric” virus — one combining the deadly properties of two separate viruses. A 2018 paper, the DEFUSE Proposal, described how they used gain-of-function research to create this new entity. It had all the features of the virus that became known as SARS CoV-2 — the one that caused COVID-19 and all its attendant global destruction.As stated in this interview last year by Robert Redfield, former director of the US Centres for Disease Control: “This pandemic was caused by science.”Supporting evidence for this arresting, if not shocking theory, includes an email dated January 27 2020, revealing the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), whose director, Anthony Fauci would lead much of the US pandemic response, had been funding coronavirus research at Wuhan. Redfield contends that the US Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health had been funding such work as well, the latter through an intermediary called the EcoHealth Alliance, a US NGO.How might all this have been set in motion? In two recent books, vaccine sceptic and independent US Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. details the events and developments that led to the current state of medical science and its disturbing possibilities — including the work that probably went on at the WIV.A key event was the sinister marriage of bioweapons and medical research, as US officials began to worry that deadly pathogens capable of unleashing pandemics — though prohibited by international treaty for use as weapons — nonetheless posed a national security risk. In a 1998 strategy paper for the Pentagon, the aforementioned Robert Kadlec described them as stealth weapons that could be deployed “without leaving any fingerprints.” Kennedy contends the resulting measures to combat bioterrorism informed a whole industry and drove research efforts though various defence and later, public health agencies.These efforts included simulations to prepare for bioterrorist attacks and pandemics, culminating in the eerily anticipatory 2017 publication by The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security of The SPARS Pandemic 2025-2028: A Futuristic Scenario for Public Health Risk Communicators and in October 2019, Event 201 — barely two months before COVID-19 began its global rampage.Kennedy argues such exercises went far beyond treating disease victims and protecting the public from a raging infection. Rather, he contends, they “war-gamed how to use police powers to detain and quarantine citizens, how to impose martial law, how to control messaging by deploying propaganda, how to employ censorship to silence dissent and how to mandate masks, lockdowns, coercive vaccination and construct track-and-trace surveillance among potentially reluctant populations.”Whether or not we agree with Kennedy’s conclusion that these measures were aimed at “militarizing medicine and introducing centralized autocratic governance,” the immediate and practical effects of this expanding and highly profitable web of organizations, relationships, research and policies would become evident in 2020 as COVID-19 struck and much of the world was forced to shut down.As important as all of this is for retrospective reasons, it has a particular forward-looking urgency as well, because several key players are now predicting another pandemic — including Shi and Robert Redfield, who is demanding that gain-of-function research be curtailed.Unfortunately, the authorities who oversaw and arguably mishandled the last pandemic response appear intent on doubling down on what didn’t work. US President Joe Biden has committed US$5 billion to develop new COVID-19 vaccines even faster. The EcoHealth Alliance has been awarded a grant for collaborative research on bat coronaviruses, and the World Health Organisation is looking to the UN to ratify measures that will allow it to make legally binding proclamations regarding pandemics, medical measures and censorship of dissidents. At its just-concluded annual meeting, the World Economic Forum included a discussion on how to best fight another, more lethal pandemic.Perhaps most worrisomely, 18 high-level biosafety labs — like the one in Wuhan — are planned to open around the world in the next few years to join the existing network of about 50 such labs, despite warnings that more labs mean more dangerous tinkering with pathogens. Plus, expanded risks of accidents or sabotage. We can only hope the ranks of those pushing back against the biopharma-military-industrial complex will grow just as fast.The original, full-length version of this article recently appeared in C2C Journal.Margret Kopala is a public policy analyst who has been following the mismanagement of the pandemic.