Artha Global hosted a conversation with Alina Chan, molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Matt Ridley, journalist, author of best-selling science books and former member of the House of Lords in the UK, on their timely book, ‘Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19’ on February 9, 2022, from 6.30pm to 8.00pm IST (1.00pm to 2.30pm GMT).

A new virus was identified in 2019 wreaking unprecedented havoc. Finding out where it came from and how it first jumped into people is an urgent priority, but early expectations that this would prove an easy question to answer have been dashed. Nearly two years into the pandemic, the crucial mystery of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is not only unresolved but has deepened. Alina Chan and Matt Ridley collaborated in an attempt to get to the bottom of how a virus whose closest relations live in bats in subtropical southern China managed to spread among people more than 1,500 kilometres away in the city of Wuhan.

Their research delves deep into the events of 2019 leading up to 2021, the details of what went on in animal markets and virology laboratories, the records and data hidden from sight within archived Chinese theses and websites, and the clues that can be coaxed from the very text of the virus’s own genetic code. The authors walked through the broad arguments of the book, followed by a Q&A session moderated by Reuben Abraham.