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Thomas Gallatin / August 5, 2022

Yes, NIH Funded Gain-of-Function

Three experts testify the NIH was indeed engaged in funding gain-of-function research, calling Fauci’s claim “untruthful.”

The nature of a lie is that it never ends with just one. It has a tendency to snowball, getting bigger and bigger. But also like that snowball, it quickly starts to fall apart as it grows. This phenomenon appears to be what we are witnessing regarding Dr. Anthony Fauci’s claims about COVID-19’s origin and the potential role the National Institutes of Health played in it through gain-of-function research.

In May 2021, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) accused the NIH of funding gain-of-function research, specifically at biolabs in Wuhan, China. At the time, Fauci vehemently denied the charge: “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect. … The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

However, months later, documents revealed that the NIH had indeed funded gain-of-function research via a nonprofit cutout known as EcoHealth Alliance. From 2014 through 2019, the NIH gave some $600,000 to EcoHealth, which was working in and with the Wuhan lab. The money was intended for gain-of-function research into bat coronaviruses.

Following this revelation, Fauci appeared again before Paul in a Senate hearing where he was confronted with the new evidence. Fauci engaged in semantics, with Paul charging he was attempting to redefine gain-of-function and calling on the doctor to resign. Fauci insisted that nature rather than a lab leak was the most plausible explanation for COVID’s origin and ended by claiming that Paul was “egregiously incorrect.”

Fast-forward to this week, when the Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held another hearing on the origin of COVID. It was a bipartisan hearing, but it was chaired by Paul because, conspicuously, no Democrat senator showed up for it, clearly indicating that they don’t find it politically beneficial to dig into the issue further.

Appearing for the hearing were three experts involved in the field of virology research. Regarding Fauci’s repeated claims that the NIH was not involved in funding gain-of-function research, Dr. Richard Ebright, professor of microbiology at Rutgers University, offered his opinion. “The statements made on repeated occasions to the public, to the press, and to policymakers by the NIAID director, Dr. Fauci, have been untruthful,” Ebright stated. “I do not understand why those statements are being made because they are demonstrably false.”

In fact, as Paul observed, all three of the witnesses agreed that the research the NIH had been involved in funding did indeed classify as gain-of-function.

Dr. Steven Quay, CEO of Atossa Therapeutics Inc., also challenged Fauci’s assertion that natural origin rather than a lab leak was the most likely explanation. “There is no dispositive evidence the pandemic began as a spillover of a natural virus in a market,” he asserted. “All evidence is consistent with a laboratory-acquired infection.”

Quay also explained why he came to this conclusion. “The virus has three genomic regions that have the signature of synthetic biology — that is, gain-of-function research,” he said. “One region has features of the two types of forbidden gain-of-function research that are associated with bioweapons development: asymptomatic transmission and immune-system evasion.”

This raises the question of the motivation behind the research. Why exactly was the Wuhan lab engaged in gain-of-function research on coronaviruses, especially if it was implementing two types of forbidden research? Talk about massive national security implications — here we have the NIH funding what amounts to illegal gain-of-function research at a lab controlled by our number one geopolitical foe, China.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked if the threat posed by gain-of-function research outweighed any benefit. Quay responded by first noting, “My analysis is that [gain-of-function research] hasn’t contributed to the response to this pandemic.” After acknowledging that it still has a high upside potential, he concluded, “I believe [that] enhancing the oversight of the research is the more effective and more prudent strategy than simply banning it.”

In the end, that is the real issue — just how much effective oversight was and has been given to this significant but profoundly dangerous research technology? One thing’s for sure: Scientists like Dr. Fauci cannot hide behind semantics if proper oversight is to be effective. At least now more people are aware of a potentially dangerous research technology that must be carefully regulated. The cost for that awareness, however, was nearly immeasurable.

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