The World Health Organization on Wednesday named 26 scientists to a new advisory body devoted to understanding the origins of the coronavirus and other future possible outbreaks. The group, dubbed the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), includes scientists from the United States and China, as well as 24 other nations. More than 700 experts applied for a place on the team. Those in the group will serve, unpaid, for two-year terms, with the possibility of having their time on the body extended.“It’s a real opportunity right now to get rid of all the noise, all the politics surrounding this and focus on what we know, what we don’t know and what, urgently, we need to all focus our attention on,” Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging disease and zoonosis unit, said. Previously, Chinese officials have said they consider investigation of the virus’s origins on China’s soil complete but now will have to reconsider their position. However, there are doubts SAGO will have „access to information or on-the-ground investigation as far as China is concerned,” said Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he expected “future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing.” “Laboratory hypotheses must be examined carefully, with a focus on labs in the location where the first reports of human infections emerged in Wuhan,” WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan affirmed. The majority of SAGO names were not connected to the previous effort.