Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said his agency did not provide funds into research on risky “gain of function” research into coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
During a Senate hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) asked Fauci—who has become one of the public faces of the federal government’s pandemic response—about reports alleging that a U.S. virologist worked at the Wuhan, China, lab that would make pathogens more deadly or more easily transmittable. It comes amid questions about the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus and the theory that it may have leaked from the facility.
“For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the U.S., has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zhengli from the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create super viruses. This gain-of-function research has been funded by the NIH … Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH lab in Wuhan?” Paul said in a contentious exchange Tuesday.
“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect,” Fauci said in response. “The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Fauci then said that the doctor mentioned in reports doesn’t conduct such research—known as function research—as the two continued to argue. Fauci noted that the NIH did provide funding to a project at the Wuhan lab, but it was not for “gain of function” research designed to create super viruses.
According to federal records published online, the NIH—which oversees Fauci’s agency—provided $3.7 million to Ecohealth Alliance, which conducted research of genetic analyses of bat coronaviruses and how they could spread to humans. The Trump administration terminated the Ecohealth grant last year.
Later, Paul asked if Fauci could “categorically say that the COVID-19 could not have occurred through serial passage in a laboratory?”
“I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done,” Fauci said in response, adding that he is “fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China.”
“I don’t favor gain-of-function research in China and you are saying things that are not correct,” Fauci also remarked.
Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to NIH Director Francis Collins in March and later wrote to EcoHealth Alliance’s Peter Daszak, who is one of the most prominent Western defenders of the Wuhan laboratory, and demanded records about their research and collaborations with the lab.
“EcoHealth Alliance has long partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in researching bat coronaviruses and [EcoHealth Alliance] is the only U.S. partner of the WIV’s eight international cohorts,” the Energy Committee Republicans wrote in a news release in April. “Additionally, [EcoHealth Alliance] has shared some of the funding it has received from the National Institutes of Health with the WIV for several years.”
EcoHealth Alliance has maintained that a Wuhan lab leak isn’t the cause of the CCP virus pandemic.
Daszak’s nonprofit worked with the Wuhan lab since at least 2003, according to the GOP letter, and a significant portion of that research was focused on various coronaviruses.
Their letter further alleged that it possesses a database that “is estimated to contain [information on] 500 coronaviruses identified by EHA, and at least 100 unpublished sequences of bat beta coronaviruses that are relevant to the investigation of the SARS-CoV-2 origin.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is located just a few miles from where the first COVID-19 outbreak was said to have been detected.