Nobel Laureate Tasuku Honjo Didn’t Say COVID-19 Was Made in China
On behalf of the professor, Alok Kumar, a PhD student at Kyoto University, told The Quint that the message is fake.
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 mentions 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.
“I have done 40 years of research on animals and viruses. It is not natural. It is manufactured and the virus is completely artificial,” a part of message reads.
The message has been widely circulated on Facebook and Twitter.
The Quint received a query on the claim through its WhatsApp helpline.
TRUE OR FALSE?
The claim has been falsely attributed to Professor Tasuku Honjo.
Responding on behalf of the professor, Alok Kumar, a student at Kyoto University, pursuing his research under the supervision of the said professor – as mentioned on his website – told The Quint that Prof Honjo never made such a statement as claimed in the viral message.
Even the Wikipedia link that is being circulated along with the message does not mention any information that Professor Honjo had worked in a Wuhan lab for four years.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
A simple search on Professor Dr Tasuku Honjo reveals he shared the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with James P Allison "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 Kyoto University in Japan, Carnegie Institution of Washington in the United States, among others.
Further, we also looked up his profile at Kyoto University’s website and found a timeline of his career under the ‘Biography’ section.
None of these websites mention him having worked in any Wuhan laboratory.
PROFESSOR’S STUDENT DENIES CLAIMS
We searched on Facebook using keywords, “Tasuku Honjo lab fake” and found a post uploaded on 23 April by Alok Kumar, who called out the viral message as fake.
In an email interaction with The Quint, Kumar said “The news circulating regarding 'Prof Honjo's claim that coronavirus is man-made' is FAKE NEWS. Prof Honjo never gave any such statement. Each and every sentence of this post is completely false and has no connection with truth. Prof Honjo never worked in Wuhan laboratory. He never called there. He did not work on virus origin and functions and other related issues. All the contents are just concocted and nothing else. (sic)”
HONJO’S MEDIA INTERACTION
Regarding Professor Tasuku Honjo’s recent media interaction, we found an article published by The Japan Times on 23 April that mentioned that the nobel laureate in a television program on 16 April said that Japan needs to increase PCR tests in order to detect coronavirus infections and and categorise the cases on the basis of seriousness of symptoms.
“This is a fight against an invisible ninja. The battlefield is at home and abroad, and it is necessary to know where and to what degree the enemy exists around us,” Honjo had said, the report added.
But there is no mention of any comment on the origin of the novel coronavirus.
While The Quint is not debating the merits of the content of this message, it is pertinent to note that the claims made in the viral message have been falsely attributed to Professor Tasuku Honjo.
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