By Dilyana Gaytandzhieva
Two years ago, I investigated an alleged laboratory accident at the Lugar Center, the Pentagon bio-laboratory in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, which had resulted in the death of two Filipinos working in the laboratory. The death cases were hidden by the local authorities but I recorded on camera witnesses who testified about this tragic incident.
Project G-2101: Pentagon bio-lab discovered MERS and SARS-like coronaviruses in bats
The Lugar Center scientists collected 450 bats in total in 2012 and 2014 (photos: Lela Urushadze, Zoonotic pathogens, and their molecular epidemiological character in Georgian bats, Dissertation, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia, 2018)
Bat samples were shipped to CDC, Atlanta, for screening for pathogens (source: Lela Urushadze, The First Bat Survey for Emerging Zoonotic Pathogens in Georgia)
However, what then seemed to me to be a local issue, turned out to be part of a bigger story. The Lugar Center in Georgia is just one of the many Pentagon bio-laboratories in 25 countries across the world. They are funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) under a $ 2.1 billion military program – Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) and are located in former Soviet Union countries such as Georgia and Ukraine, the Middle East, South East Asia, and Africa.
Much of their work is classified and includes projects on bio-agents and pathogens with pandemic potential.