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Fact check: The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not owned by GlaxoSmithKline

Social media users have made an unfounded connection between pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, and a Chinese laboratory that has been the subject of COVID-19 conspiracy theories.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Posts featuring the false claim can be seen (here , here). “The Chinese biological laboratory in Wuhan is owned by Glaxo. Who, by chance, owns Pfizer (the one who produces the vaccine.)", the posts read, whilst also linking Pfizer to asset manager BlackRock, and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.

Unverified theories have suggested the virus that causes COVID-19 was synthesised by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (here). However the majority of virologists and infectious disease experts say the new virus is most likely to have evolved naturally (here).

Pfizer, meanwhile, has been involved in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved for use in the UK and the U.S. (here).

But GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British pharmaceutical company, does not own either Pfizer or the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The institute is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) (here), which is in turn governed by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (here).

In 2019, a CAS member wrote an open letter maintaining that it was not run or financed independently from the Chinese government (here).

“CAS has never sought or achieved financial autonomy”, the representative wrote in science journal Nature.

“Over the past 40 years, half of its income has come directly from central-government investment; the rest has been from competitive funding or technology transfer”.

While GSK has embarked on joint ventures with Pfizer, the two are separate companies (uk.reuters.com/companies/GSK.L , uk.reuters.com/companies/PFE).

In fact, Pfitzer does not have one owner, but is owned by both members of the public and a range of institutions, with the top shareholder being the Vanguard Group (here) (here).

VERDICT

False. GlaxoSmithKline does not own Pfizer or the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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