University of Pittsburgh

Engineering Contagion- UPMC, Corona-thrax and “the Darkest Winter”

The Last American Vagabond by Whitney Webb - September 25, 2020

Researchers at a [:[BSL-3 lab]] tied to the organizers of the 2001 Dark Winter simulation, DARPA, and the post-9/11 biodefense industrial complex are genetically modifying anthrax to express Covid-19 components, according to FOIA documents.

Soon after having been fired from his post as secretary of the treasury in December 2002, after a policy clash with the president, Paul O’Neill became a trustee of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Despite having just worked under and clashed with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it wasn’t until O’Neill began answering to UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff as a member of the Center’s board that he chose to publicly denounce a superior as “evil.”

“He wants to destroy competition. He wants to be the only game in town,” O’Neill would later state of Romoff, adding that “after 18 months I quit [the UPMC board] in disgust” due to Romoff’s “absolute control” over the board’s actions. O’Neill subsequently noted that UPMC “board members who have wealth of hundreds of millions of dollars are not willing to take this guy on.” When pressed by a local reporter, O’Neill further elaborated that he had been told by other board members that they were “afraid” of Romoff because Romoff might “harm them in some way.”

Romoff took over stating at one 1995 UPMC meeting that his “vision” for the future of American health care was “the conversion of health care from social good to a commodity.” Motivated by profit above all else, Romoff aggressively expanded UPMC, gobbling up community hospitals, surgery centers, and private practices to create a “health-care network” that has expanded throughout much of Pennsylvania and even abroad to other countries, including China.

Under Romoff, UPMC has also expanded into the health-insurance business, with 40 percent of the medical claims it pays out going straight back into places of care that are owned by UPMC—meaning UPMC is essentially paying itself.

In addition, since UPMC is officially a “charitable nonprofit corporation,” it is exempt from property taxes and has special access to the tax-exempt municipal bond market. UPMC can also solicit tax-deductible grants from private individuals and organizations, as well as governments. These grants totaled over $1 billion dollars between 2005 and 2017.

before the state of Pennsylvania had a single case of Covid-19, UPMC formed a “coronavirus task force,” which was initially focused on lobbying the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC to obtain samples of live SARS-CoV-2 for research purposes. That research was to be conducted at the Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) housed within UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research.

The Corona-thrax experiment is being conducted at the Center for Vaccine Research’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL), where the center’s work with pathogenic agents, such as anthrax and SARS-CoV-2, is conducted.

The creation of UPMC’s RBL was first announced in 2003, when the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, then and currently led by Anthony Fauci stated it would fund the laboratory’s construction with an $18 million grant. It was originally planned to be mainly “dedicated to research on agents that cause naturally occurring and emerging infections, as well as potential agents of bioterrorism.” The plan to create the lab was part of the US government decision to dramatically ramp up “biodefense” research in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

The lab was also intended to work on “developing a vaccine program focusing on basic and translational research” related to viruses of pandemic potential that are at risk of being “weaponized,” including SARS. After the creation of the lab was initially announced, the project expanded, eventually becoming UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research, which was launched in 2007. The Center for Vaccine Research was the second such institution to be officially added to the NIAID’s “biodefense” RBL network.

The opening of both this lab and UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research was made reality thanks to the efforts of the main authors of the June 2001 Dark Winter bioterror simulation, a controversial exercise that eerily predicted the 2001 anthrax attacks as well as the initial, yet bogus, narrative that Iraq and Islamic extremist terror groups were responsible for those attacks. However, the anthrax used in the attacks was later revealed to be of US military origin.1)


University of Pittsburgh To Begin Work on Novel Coronavirus Vaccine PittWire Thursday, February 13, 2020 The University of Pittsburgh, whose legacy of medical breakthroughs includes the polio vaccine, is in the process of obtaining samples of the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, that will allow its researchers to begin work toward developing a vaccine against the disease. As of Feb. 13, the outbreak has killed more than 1,300 people and sickened more than 60,000 worldwide, including 13 cases in the U.S.

Duprex said the Pitt center formed a coronavirus task force a few weeks ago and is pursuing the live virus from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop disease models that will support vaccine development. Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research is one of the few labs nationwide qualified to handle pathogens like SARS-CoV-2, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The virus was recently found to be related to the species that caused the 2002-03 SARS outbreak. 2)

==== TLAV FOIA - University of Pittsburgh Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) Meeting Minutes 3)

p 5 The investigator has also proposed work with CRISPR/Cas9 and gRNA either by transfection or use of AAV. Clarification is requiredto determine if CRISPR and gRNA will be expressed via the same viral vector. Viral vectors thatencode CRISPR/Cas together with one or more sgRNAs must be generated and used at BSL-2+ containment.

If CRISPR/Cas and the sgRNA(s) are expressed using separate viral vectors, BSL-2is appropriate. The biosafety level will need to be determined based on the investigator's responses. This is a new protocol submitted by a new investigator studying retinal development.In the proposed work the investigator is using an hiPSC line to generate organoids. These organoids will be genetically manipulated by CRISPR/Cas9 technology by use of AAV. The useof AAV and CAS9 technology should be considered for biosafety containment levels and should be clarified.

Wayback pdf p. 300 - original document p 48/54 Minutes for IBC Page 48 of 54 Protocol; MOD202000043 Title; Amendment for IBC201600015 Investigator; REDACTED Highest BSL; RBL ABSL-3

  • NIH Guidelines- • NIH Section III-D-1
  • • NIH Section III-D-2
  • • NIH Section III-D-3
  • • NIH Section III-D-4
  • • NIH Exempt: Sections III-E or III-F
  • Additional Documents; • Appendix 1C
  • • Appendix 5
  • • Appendix 4
  • • Appendix 2
  • • Appendix 3A3B
  • • Appendix 1A
  • • Appendix 1B
  • • SINV chimeric viruses safety test
  • • Appendix 1D

Determination: Approved - Last day of continuing review period; 2/12/2021 Required modifications;

  • 1) Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Work Description, Question 3e; The response in
  • question 1 states, “Use of CRISPR/Cas9 DNA plasmid vectors purchased f rom commercial
  • sources that contain both the Cas9 and guide RNA on the same vector.” Here it is stated that
  • CRISPR/Cas9 and guide RNA will be on separate vectors. Clarify the discrepancy.
  • 2) Exposure Assessment and Protective Equipment, Question 4; Include Coronavirus in the
  • response.
  • 3) Supporting Documents; The laboratory's Biosafety Operations Manual needs to be uploaded for
  • IBC review.
  • 4) Supporting Documents; Attached documents do not display properly; upload as PDFs.
  • 5) Supporting Documents; Appendix 3; Section 3B - Propose an appropriate biosafety level for
  • work with “pathogen immunogens”.

Comments; This is a modification of an existing protocol to update personnel, change the title, and add the following; a) RNA viruses expressing Coronavirus (SARS, MERS, 2019 nCoV) spike proteins; b)2019 nCoV (not recombinant) to be used for challenge experiments in mice c) rabbits and rats that will be immunized with the RNA viruses expressing Coronavirus spike proteins.

The attachments do not open and should be uploaded as PDFs. A few minor form issues should be corrected. Recommend approval pending modifications. The modification describes changes of personnel, addition of RNA viral vaccine candidates expressing proteins from Corona Viruses (MERS, SARS, and 2019-nCoV) as well as challenge experiments to expose vaccinated animals to 2019-nCoV and MERS.

The investigator is well-established, approved for work with MERS CoV at BSL-3/ABSL-3 in the RBL and will work with infectious 2019-nCoV in the RBL using practices approved for work with MERS. The attachments were reviewed and there was a comment provided regarding the attachments.

Due to the meeting deadline, initial review comments were not able to be provided to the investigator in advance of the meeting. The application was placed on the February agenda, as it was received by the office. Modifications Required; Additional comments were provided by the committee, which will need to be addressed by the investigator prior to final IBC approval.

This is a modification to include expression of Coronavirus Spike proteins and T-cell epitomes in Alpha- and/or Flavivirus-based viral vectors to be used as vaccine candidates.

Members in Attendance

University of Pittsburgh - Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) Meeting Minutes

March 9, 2020 10:00 AM Every name REDACTED wayback pdf p 307.. original report 1/29 The Biosafety Officer was in attendance at a meeting of the Pandemic Preparedness Working Group for the University and has made the committee aware of a Preparedness Guide for Researchers.

March 23, 2020 3:00 PM Meeting; ZOOM teleconference meeting SARS-CoV-2 protocols only

No report, as this was an “emergency” meeting outside of the regularly scheduled meetings to discuss specific protocols involving research with the Corona Virus

The investigator has submitted this modification for either a bacterial expression plasmid expressing COVID-19 Spike protein or the COVID-19 Spike protein itself for structural biology experiments. Bacteria will be used at BSL-2. This is technically BSL-1 work and low-risk. The amendment describes addition of expression of Corona Virus Spike protein in E. coli for purification and subsequent structural studies using NMR. The work will be performed at BSL-2, is low risk, and seems to be appropriate. The protocol application was placed onto the March 23rd Emergency meeting agenda for review.

April 2, 2020 3:00 PM Meeting; ZOOM teleconference meeting SARS-CoV-2 protocols only wayback p 343

This modification adds work with transgenic hamsters expressing the human ACE2 receptor gene, work with SARS-CoV-2 in NHPs, ferrets, and hamsters, as well as work with SARS-CoV-2 viruses tagged with reporter genes (e.g. GFP). The work is proposed at the appropriate biosafetylevels with all work with infectious SARS-CoV-2 viruses to be done in the RBL. The investigator’s RBL biosafety manual is up-to-date and EH&S is aware of this new work. Minor clarifications are requested. This is a modification for an existing protocol to include use of transgenic hamsters, work with SARS-Cov-2 in non-human primates, ferrets and hamsters, and SARS-CoV-2 reporter expressing viruses (GFP and luciferase).

Due to the mandate for fast-track processing of protocols for work with the CoViD-19 agents, there was no time to provide the reviewer comments to the investigator prior to the emergency meeting. The protocol application was placed onto the April 2nd emergency meeting for review.

Determination; Approved Last day of continuing review period; 4/2/2021 Required modifications; None wayback p.346

This is an amendment to a protocol previously approved to study pulmonary hypertension in the context of HIV. The investigator requests to add SARS-CoV-2 Spike proteins to the study tocharacterize cell entry mechanisms, using a tagged GFP construct, in cell culture on relevant pulmonary primary cell lines. No animal work is being proposed. The amendment application is well-explained, but the information is not translated into the main protocol.

Hence, most of the information for the proposed work is not listed in the protocol itself. Specifically, the cell lineusage and the viral information. It should be clear why “pseudovirus” is being used to describe the replication incompetent Lentivirus. The current description seems to disregard the potential biohazard of the Lentivirus and perhaps should be removed throughout. (

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