Alina Chan

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Alina Chan
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EducationB.Sc. and Ph.D in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Alma materThe University of British Columbia
OccupationMolecular biologist

Yujia Alina Chan is a Canadian molecular biologist specializing in gene therapy and cell engineering at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she is a Postdoctoral Fellow.[1]


Chan graduated from The University of British Columbia with B.Sc. and Ph.D in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2009 and 2014, respectively.

Career and research

COVID-19 molecular biology

In September of 2020, Chan, together with associates in the Broad Institute launched a COVID-19 CoV Genetics browser as an open resource for researchers to track hundreds of thousands of SARS-CoV-2 single-nucleotide variations (SNVs) and lineages from around the world.[2]

COVID-19 origins

Chan became known during the COVID-19 pandemic for suggesting the possible lab origins of the virus in a BioRxiv preprint coauthored with Shing Hei Zhan which she sent for consideration to multiple journals but the editors decided against sending for peer review.[3] The preprint attracted criticism from prominent scientists such as Jonathan Eisen, with whom she interacted constructively, but also the head of EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, in a more contentious exchange that Chan was regarded by some as having the upper hand, e.g. Nicholson Baker summarised this 'it was enough for one Twitter user to muse, “If capital punishment were as painful as what Alina Chan is doing to Daszak/WIV regarding their story, it would be illegal.”'. [4] Chan went on to coauthor, again with S.-H. Zhan, a BioRxiv print showing that four papers on Pangolins infected with a SARS-related coronavirus were all describing the same Guangdong pangolin coronavirus; one paper had published old samples under different names and a composite figure that they claimed described a single sample;[5] Antonio Rigaldo summarised the fininding "Chan and Zhan noticed that all the papers described the same batch of animals—even though some failed to acknowledge the overlap. One even relabeled the data, which made it appear novel."[6] This paper led to corrections in two published articles, in Nature and PLOS Pathogens.

Chan coauthored OpEds on the subject with Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal[7] and in The Daily Telegraph[8]. Chan later signed open letters together with other scientists published in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, calling for full and unrestricted international forensic investigations into all possible origins of the virus.[9][10]

Chan was one of 18 scientists who signed a letter in Science Magazine calling again for a credible investigation into the origins of the virus. The letter called for a "proper investigation" into "both natural and laboratory spillovers" and was widely covered in the press and brought the debate on the possible lab origins of the virus into the mainstream.[11][12][13][14][15][16]


Molecular Biology

Chan was first to profile the entire Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast genome for DNA-RNA hybrids by chromatin immunoprecipitation and microarray, and to establish novel connections between non-coding RNA, cellular functions and genome instability.[17] The work fostered ongoing collaboration between three labs at the University of British Columbia studying the cancer relevance of DNA-RNA hybrids across model organisms and human cells.


Chan and Matt Ridley are writing a book titled "Viral: the Search for the Origin of COVID-19", to be published by HarperCollins in November 2021.[18][19]


  3. 'SARS-CoV-2 is well adapted for humans. What does this mean for re-emergence?', May 2020,
  4. Jacobsen, Rowan (9 September 2020). "Could COVID-19 Have Escaped from a Lab?". Boston Magazine.
  5. 'Single source of pangolin CoVs with a near identical Spike RBD to SARS-CoV-2', October 2020,
  6. Antonio Rigaldo, 25th June 2021. They called it a conspiracy theory: But Alina Chan tweeted life into the idea that the virus came from a lab. MIT Technology Review.
  7. Ridley, Alina Chan and Matt (January 15, 2021). "The World Needs a Real Investigation Into the Origins of Covid-19". Wall Street Journal – via
  8. Ridley, Matt; Chan, Alina (February 6, 2021). "Did the Covid-19 virus really escape from a Wuhan lab?". The Telegraph – via
  11. "Could a lab leak really be to blame for Covid-19?". May 27, 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-06-18.
  12. Palus, Shannon (May 29, 2021). "Just Because We're Talking About the Lab Leak Theory Doesn't Mean It's Come True". Slate Magazine.
  13. "Many Scientists Still Think The Coronavirus Came From Nature".
  14. "The science around the lab leak theory hasn't changed. But here's why some scientists have". NBC News.
  15. Barnes, Adam (June 17, 2021). "Harvard scientist says Trump hatred motivated experts who denied Wuhan lab leak theory". TheHill.
  16. "How It Started, How It's Going | On the Media". WNYC Studios.
  17. Stirling, P. C.; Chan, Y. A.; Minaker, S. W.; Aristizabal, M. J.; Barrett, I.; Sipahimalani, P.; Kobor, M. S.; Hieter, P. (2012). "R-loop-mediated genome instability in mRNA cleavage and polyadenylation mutants". Genes & Development. 26 (2): 163–175. doi:10.1101/gad.179721.111. PMC 3273840. PMID 22279048.
  18. "Alina Chan and Matt Ridley to publish book about the origins of Covid-19 – Georgina Capel".
  19. "Alina Chan". HarperCollins.

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