Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reportedly did not warn senior White House officials in the Trump administration when the ban ended on gain-of-function research in 2017. Fauci also previously argued that the benefits of conducting gain-of-function research outweighed the risk that it could spark a pandemic.
Investigative reporter Sharri Markson reports:
An investigation by The Weekend Australian has also confirmed Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did not alert senior White House officials before lifting the ban on gain-of-function research in 2017.
Markson, who is the author of the upcoming book “What Really Happened In Wuhan,” also highlighted previously unreported remarks from Fauci in 2012 where Fauci argued that the benefits of doing gain-of-function research outweighed the risk that it could spark a pandemic. Gain-of-function research tries to create more infectious strains of diseases before they arise in nature in an effort to defend against them.
Fauci made the remarks while defending a continuation of the “voluntary moratorium on gain-of-function research related to the transmissibility of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza,” pending “the resolution of critical policy questions concerning the rationale for performing such experiments and how best to report their results.” Fauci wrote [emphasis added]:
However, the issue that has been intensely debated is whether knowledge obtained from these experiments could inadvertently affect public health in an adverse way, even in nations multiple time zones away. Putting aside the specter of bioterrorism for the moment, consider this hypothetical scenario: an important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations. In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic? Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario—however remote—should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?
Scientists working in this field might say—as indeed I have said—that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks. It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature, and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky. However, we must respect that there are genuine and legitimate concerns about this type of research, both domestically and globally. We cannot expect those who have these concerns to simply take us, the scientific community, at our word that the benefits of this work outweigh the risks, nor can we ignore their calls for greater transparency, their concerns about conflicts of interest, and their efforts to engage in a dialog about whether these experiments should have been performed in the first place. Those of us in the scientific community who believe in the merits of this work have the responsibility to address these concerns thoughtfully and respectfully.
Fauci and the NIH have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks over funding gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Fauci has maintained that U.S. taxpayer money did not go to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to fund gain of function research.
Yet papers published as late as last year in American peer-reviewed academic journals that include WIV researchers – including its prominent virologist Shi Zhengli – disclose that work on coronaviruses had been funded by at least three NIH grants.
Multiple top Trump administration officials told The Australian that Fauci did not alert them about restarting gain of function research.
“It kind of just got rammed through,” one official said. “I think there’s truth in the narrative that the (National Security Council) staff, the president, the White House chief-of-staff, those people were in the dark that he was switching back on the research.”
EcoHealth Alliance distributed nearly $600,000 of National Institute of Health (NIH) grant money over six years to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in part to study “the risk of the future emergence of coronaviruses from bats,” FactCheck.org reports:
In 2014, the NIH awarded a grant to the U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk of the future emergence of coronaviruses from bats. In 2019, the project was renewed for another five years, but it was canceled in April 2020 — three months after the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S. EcoHealth ultimately received $3.7 million over six years from the NIH and distributed nearly $600,000 of that total to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a collaborator on the project, pre-approved by NIH.