Newly released documents provide additional evidence that NIH Director Francis Collins, and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci lied about funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
Nine hundred pages of documents, obtained by the Intercept in connection with ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation, show that the United States funded research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab through the EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based health organization.
The materials show that Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) provided grants to EcoHealth to fund gain-of-function, and potential pandemic pathogen enhancement research at the WIV from 2014 to 2019, according to Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University. Gain-of-function is highly controversial research that involves making pathogens and viruses more lethal and virulent in a laboratory.
(This had been evident previously from published research papers that credited the 2014 grant and from the publicly available summary of the 2019 grant. But this now can be stated definitively from progress reports of the 2014 grant and the full proposal of the 2017 grant.)
— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) September 7, 2021
A 90-day Biden administration “investigation” into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic was unable to conclude whether the virus jumped to humans via animals or escaped the research facility in Wuhan. The intelligence community sent Biden an “inconclusive” final report on it’s findings last month.
The Intercept reviewed two grant proposals that were funded by Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as project updates relating to the EcoHealth Alliance’s coronavirus research.
“This is a roadmap to the high-risk research that could have led to the current pandemic,” Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right To Know, told the Intercept.
Fauci has repeatedly claimed under oath that the WIH received no funding for its research from either NIH or NIAID.
“Surprise surprise—Fauci lied again,” tweeted Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who has repeatedly sparred with the NIAID director over his gain-of-function activities. “And I was right about his agency funding novel Coronavirus research at Wuhan.”
Surprise surprise – Fauci lied again
And I was right about his agency funding novel Coronavirus research at Wuhan.
Read this thread and the papers released. https://t.co/zQizKXLdbd
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 7, 2021
Last May, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins put out a statement decrying what he called “misinformation about NIH support of specific ‘gain-of-function’ research,” insisting that “neither NIH nor NIAID have ever approved any grant that would have supported “gain-of-function” research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.”
One of the grants, titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” outlines an ambitious effort led by EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak to screen thousands of bat samples for novel coronaviruses. The research also involved screening people who work with live animals. The documents contain several critical details about the research in Wuhan, including the fact that key experimental work with humanized mice was conducted at a biosafety level 3 lab at Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment — and not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as was previously assumed. The documents raise additional questions about the theory that the pandemic may have begun in a lab accident, an idea that Daszak has aggressively dismissed.
The bat coronavirus grant provided the EcoHealth Alliance with a total of $3.1 million, including $599,000 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology used in part to identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to infect humans. Even before the pandemic, many scientists were concerned about the potential dangers associated with such experiments. The grant proposal acknowledges some of those dangers: “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled.”
Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute, told the Intercept that the documents show that EcoHealth was well aware of how risky the research was.
“In this proposal, they actually point out that they know how risky this work is. They keep talking about people potentially getting bitten — and they kept records of everyone who got bitten,” Chan said. “Does EcoHealth have those records? And if not, how can they possibly rule out a research-related accident?”
Ebright explained to the Intercept why this type of research was so dangerous. “The viruses they constructed were tested for their ability to infect mice that were engineered to display human type receptors on their cell,” Ebright wrote after reviewing the documents. “While they were working on SARS-related coronavirus, they were carrying out a parallel project at the same time on MERS-related coronavirus,” Ebright said, referring to the virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
Asked about the grant materials, Robert Kessler, communications manager at EcoHealth Alliance, replied, “We applied for grants to conduct research. The relevant agencies deemed that to be important research, and thus funded it. So I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to say.”
The grant was initially awarded for a five-year period — from 2014 to 2019. Funding was renewed in 2019 but suspended by the Trump administration in April 2020.
The second grant, Understanding Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in Emerging Infectious Disease Hotspots of Southeast Asia, was awarded in August 2020 and extends through 2025. The proposal, written in 2019, often seems prescient, focusing on scaling-up and deploying resources in Asia in case of an outbreak of an “emergent infectious disease,” or EID, and referring to Asia as “this hottest of the EID hotspots.”
During a contentious back-and-forth with Senator Paul in July, Dr. Fauci insisted that his agency did not fund risky gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and angrily accused Paul of lying about the issue.
“You do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly!” the testy NIAID director snapped at Paul.
Fauci however argued in 2012 that the benefits of gain-of-function research were worth the risk of causing a pandemic through a lab accident.
In a paper for the American Society for Microbiology, unearthed by the Australian, Fauci wrote, “the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.”
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Monday called on Fauci to resign.
“Anthony Fauci has repeatedly and deliberately mislead Congress and the American people.” Hawley tweeted. “Resign. And face a congressional inquiry.”
Anthony Fauci has repeatedly and deliberately mislead Congress and the American people. Resign. And face a congressional inquiry https://t.co/o8Bxfvb8jt
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) September 7, 2021
Biden in June said he was “very confident” in Fauci when asked about the controversy during a press conference in Delaware.
The embattled NIAID director remains Biden’s chief medical advisor.