Social media is filled with debates on is the origin of the Coronavirus which has been declared as a pandemic and has claimed thousands of lives in the world. Amidst this a viral message on social media claims that ‘Japan’s professor of Physiology or Medicine’, Professor Dr Tasuku Honjo, while addressing the media said that coronavirus is “not natural and that China has manufactured it”. The message further claims that the professor said he had worked in the Wuhan laboratory in China for four years and is fully acquainted with the staff at the lab. He says “I have done 40 years of research on animals and viruses. It is not natural. It is manufactured and the virus is completely artificial”.
This message is doing rounds on Facebook and Twitter.
We started our investigation by searching for the Nobel Prize winning Professor of Medicine, Professor Dr. Tasuku Honjo from Japan. Through the search the results, we found that Dr. Tasuku and James P. Allison were awarded the Nobel in 2018 for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.
Further, the website mentions a short description about his career which includes his association with the Kyoto University in Japan, Carnegie Institute of Washington, United States, among others. Next we searched for his profile on the Kyoto University website and found a timeline of his career under the ‘Biography’ section but none of these websites mention Dr. Honjo having worked in any Wuhan based laboratory. Tasuku Honjo currently holds the position of Deputy Director-General and Distinguished Professor at Kyoto University, Institute for Advanced Study. This clearly shows that he has no history of working in a laboratory in Wuhan for 4 years as claimed in the post.
Next, we went through the media interactions by Dr. Honjo to find out if any such statement was implied by him during his interviews. We found that during his most recent interaction with the media, Tasuku Honjo mentioned the need to ramp up the PCR tests to detect virus infections to more than 10,000 per day and urged residents of the three cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya to impose “complete self-restraint from outings”.
We also found another interview prior to the above interview, where Dr. Tasuku Honjo encouraged Japanese authorities to adopt a more proactive approach and stressed that Taiwan would serve as a great model for Japan to follow. However we did not find any evidence in these interactions to suggest that he made any statement, that would support the claim made in the social media posts which stated that the Coronavirus is not natural and that China manufactured it. We also searched for credible media reports which attributed the viral claims on social media to Dr. Tasuku Honjo, but we were unable to find any credible news reports with reference to the same.
Further, we also came across a clarification statement made by the Kyoto University on behalf of Professor Tasuku Honjo. Dr. Tasuku Honjo in his statement said, ‘I am greatly saddened that my name and that of Kyoto University have been used to spread false accusations and misinformation’.
According to a news published by Reuters, WHO has also clarified that all available evidences suggests the Novel Coronavirus originated in animals in China late last year and was neither manipulated nor produced in a laboratory.
Conclusion- Fact Crescendo found the above-mentioned posts to be False. The Nobel Laureate Dr. Tasuku Honjo has never claimed that ‘Coronavirus is not natural and that China manufactured it’. The viral message attributed to his name is Fake that has been clarified by Dr. Tasuku Honjo himself.
Title:Nobel laureate Dr. Tasuku Honjo has NOT claimed that Coronavirus is man made and was manufactured in WuhanFact Check By: Aavya Ray