EDUCATION
VIRUS MADE IN CHINA LAB?
Did Prof Honjo call you? Well, he finally called. Listen to him.
- kanwar manjit singh
Did Prof Honjo call you? Well, he finally called. Listen to him.



NOBEL PRIZE did not do as much for Professor Tasuku Honjo, but finally fake news helped. Overnight, the 2018 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine became a household name in India, with everybody and his uncle and nephew quoting Prof Honjo to buttress the kitchen-made theory of vector science: China made the Covid-19 virus in a lab to launch a biological/virological warfare against America and the rest of the west.

It took mere hours for fact-finders and saner websites to do some basic investigation and cross checking to find out that it was a hoax. But in a country whose prime minister wants 'Ab Ki Baar - Trump Sarkar', who cares for useless pursuits like fact-finding?

China-haters and "true saffron sons" of Bharat Mata joined forces with die-hard Reds, leading a storm on the social media against Beijing, the destroyer of modern civilisation, aviation, business, oil markets and your favourite street corner shop called Aggarwal Sweets.

On WhatsApp and Facebook, Prof Honjo was pitted against China by corona warriors armed with a China-made smart phone and a cheap data connection. Ferocious than the Qing Dynasty's conquest of the Ming dynasty and bloodier than the Taiping Rebellion, the battle claimed all sanity.

When Punjab Today pointed out the fact-finding and underlined that Prof Honjo has not made any such claim, it received a lot of hate mail. "How do you know? Has Prof Honjo told you?" one caller asked. He did not say if Prof Honjo called him.

Leading newspapers published the fake story on their front pages and sane men based their entire theory on Prof Honjo's fake claims to blame China for coronavirus.
 
In Punjab, Jagbani newspaper put the fake news on its front page, and otherwise sanehead Bir Devinder Singh theorised an entire geo-strategic game of thrones scenario based on the same fake story.

Compared to the US President's prime time television recommendation of drinking disinfectant, this fake Prof Honjo expose was perhaps not as dangerous, but it has laid bare the faultlines in Punjab's intellectual mindscape.

And nothing could convince these warriors because Prof Honjo had not called them personally on their private number to inform that he has never been to the Wuhan lab, that he has never investigated the origin of virus, and that he has never made the claims attributed to him.

It did not occur to shoot-from-the-hip China-busters that Nobel Prize winner scientists normally do not deduce that scores of scientists working in a lab must have died because they are not picking up their phones. (Fact Check: A doctor pronounces a person dead. Not a telecom service provider.)

Now, Professor Tasuku Honjo has taken the trouble, finally. It might break the hearts of our brave men and women, but here is what the professor, who has a Nobel Prize in his drawer to establish his credentials, said about his claimed link to social media posts which bragged that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was ‘man-made’ or ‘invented’ in a laboratory.
 
"In the wake of the pain, economic loss, and unprecedented global suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am greatly saddened that my name and that of Kyoto University have been used to spread false accusations and misinformation,” Honjo said in a statement released by Kyoto University on Tuesday, April 28.
 
According to asianscientist.com report, while comparative analysis of genomic data has shown evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus, the notion that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was invented has continued to receive mileage on social media platforms.
 
"At this stage, when all of our energies are needed to treat the ill, prevent the further spread of sorrow, and plan for a new beginning, the broadcasting of unsubstantiated claims regarding the origins of the disease is dangerously distracting,” Honjo said.
 
Honjo is currently the deputy director-general and a distinguished professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Kyoto University, Japan. In 1992, Honjo discovered programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), a key player in tumor immunology. He showed that PD-1, a protein expressed on the surface of a subset of immune cells known as T-cells, functions as a brake on T-cell function, and that blocking PD-1 would help to restore T-cell targeting of cancer cells.
 
The Japanese immunologist’s findings paved the way for the use of PD-1 inhibitors as cancer treatment in human patients. Clinical development ensued, and in 2012 a key study demonstrated clear efficacy in the treatment of patients with different types of cancer, with patients experiencing long-term remission.
 
In a 2016 interview with Asian Scientist Magazine, Honjo said his personal philosophy was to show "curiosity, courage and challenge” in his research pursuits. Two years later, Honjo was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery of PD-1 and its significance to cancer immunotherapy.
 
"This is a time for all of us, especially those of us devoting our careers to the forefronts of scientific research, to work together to fight this common enemy. We cannot delay one moment in this effort to save the lives of our fellow humans,” Honjo urged.
 
But will Prof Honjo's clarification be enough to stop our WhatsApp corona warriors from firing new posts in the direction of the Wuhan lab? That is like imagining that stuff like science can stop us from being stupid. Why do you think bottles of disinfectants have a warning on the label, screaming, "DO NOT DRINK." It is because they know that a Trump can become a president. You can drink ‘kahda’, of course. May be, that’s science. May be. Ask Prof Honjo. Did he call you?
 
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