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How to Move On From the Debate Over the Origins of the Pandemic

‘You’re not going to find the smoking gun’: Protecting humanity from the next pandemic means accepting both sides of the controversy

The closed Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, in January 2020. (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The closed Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, in January 2020. (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The walls were covered with hundreds, if not thousands of documents. There were maps drawn with red crisscrossing lines connecting cities in China, newspaper clippings tacked to a corkboard, pictures of bats, mice and minks, timelines stretching the length of the room. Posters were plastered over older versions of posters, each with a key deciphering colors, shapes and symbols, and stamped with the seal of the US Senate.

It was June of 2022 in Washington. Outside the Hart Senate Office Building, the near 90-degree heat was sweltering, but the conference room provided an escape from the sticky swamp. There, Robert Kadlec, the former US Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response under the Trump administration, known by close associates as “Dr. Doom,” had spent months scouring documents and conducting interviews alongside men with backgrounds spanning from national security to infectious disease to laboratory safety and health policy.