The group of scientists detected a small snippet of code identical to the gene they patented three years before the pandemic even hit. They discovered the unique furin cleavage site of the virus, which makes it easier to infect people and separate it from other coronaviruses.
Furin is a protease enzyme encoded in the FURIN gene. Some proteins are inactive when synthesized, but they may become active when sections are removed. This gene is responsible for proteolytic cleavage of HIV prior to viral assembly and is also thought to play a role in tumor progression.
The structure of the virus has been one of the focal points of debate about its origin, as some scientists claimed that it could not have been acquired naturally. An international team of researchers suggested that the virus may have mutated to have a furin cleavage site during experiments on human cells in a lab.
The team said there is a one-in-three trillion chance that Moderna's sequence randomly appeared through natural evolution. There is also some debate about whether or not the match is as rare as the study claims, as other experts described it as a "quirky coincidence" rather than a "smoking gun." (Related: If the spike protein facilitates entry of a gain-of-function coronavirus into cells, then why are we coerced to submit to spike protein-generating vaccines?)
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID, has all the information it needs to spread in around 30,000 letters of the RNA (genetic code). The virus shares a sequence of 19 specific letters with a genetic section that is owned by Moderna, and 12 of the shared letters make up the structure of the virus's furin cleavage site. The rest match with nucleotides in a nearby part of the genome sequence.
What makes this interesting, however, is that Moderna filed a patent in February 2016 as part of its cancer research. The patented sequence is part of a gene called MSH3, which is known to influence the repair of damaged cells in the body. The patent was approved in March the following year. (Related: Vaccine researcher admits 'big mistake,' says spike protein is dangerous 'toxin.')
In a new study, researchers compared the COVID-19 makeup to millions of sequenced proteins on an online database, and of the 30,000 letters of genetic code that made the virus, it is the only one of its type to carry 12 unique letters that allow its spike protein to be activated by the common furin enzyme, which made it easier to spread between human cells.
Analysis of the original COVID genome also found that the virus shares a sequence of 19 specific letters with a genetic section owned by Moderna.
Dr. Balamurali Ambati of the University of Oregon and one of the authors of the paper said the matching code may have originally been introduced to the COVID genome through infected human cells expressing the MSH3 gene.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist from the University of Warwick, admitted that while the finding was interesting, it is not significant enough to suggest lab manipulation.
"We’re talking about a very, very, very small piece made up of 19 nucleotides. So it doesn’t mean very much to be frank, if you do these types of searches you can always find matches," he said.
However, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, Dr. Simone Clarke, questioned whether the find was as rare as the study claims. He said there can only be a certain number of genetic combinations within furin cleavage sites, and they do so like a lock and key in the cell. "The two only fit together in a limited number of combinations."
He also said that while it is an interesting coincidence, it is surely not entirely coincidental.
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