Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) questioned Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday regarding U.S. funding of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese lab that some believe is the origin of COVID-19.
After expressing skepticism regarding the consensus explanation that the virus emerged naturally in Chinese wet markets, Paul claimed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the Wuhan lab’s gain-of-function research, which is a form of study that attempts to render pathogens more infectious and lethal.
“Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?” Paul asked Fauci.
“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect,” Fauci replied. “The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Paul then pointed to a $3.4 million grant that the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), the part of the NIH run by Fauci, gave to EcoHealth Alliance in 2014.
EcoHealth Alliance paid the lab in Wuhan $598,500 over five years, according to PolitiFact, which also reported “all parties involved in the grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology have denied that it involved gain-of-function research.”
Fauci then denied Paul’s claim that the research done by Dr. Ralph Baric, whose webpage says he obtained a $6 million grant from NIAID in 2017 “to accelerate the development of a promising new drug in the fight against deadly coronaviruses,” could be characterized as “gain-of-function.” Paul cited the hundreds of doctors in the Cambridge Working Group who would disagree.
“Will you, in front of this group, categorically say that the COVID-19 virus could not have occurred by serial passage in a laboratory?” Paul later asked Fauci.
“I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I’m fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China,” Fauci answered. “However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Paul tweeted that Fauci “dissembled or tried to hide his long time support for ‘gain-of-function’ research which creates super-viruses that jump from animals to humans. 11 labs in the US create these super-viruses in the US and one of them collaborated with Wuhan Virology [Institute] —Fauci has supported NIH funds for all these labs!”
11 labs in the US create these super-viruses in the US and one of them collaborated with Wuhan Virology Inst —Fauci has supported NIH funds for all these labs!
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 11, 2021
In a 2011 op-ed for The Washington Post titled “A flu risk worth taking,” Fauci expressed support for gain-of-function research, writing in part:
Along with support for this research comes a responsibility to ensure that the information is used for good. Safeguarding against the potential accidental release or deliberate misuse of laboratory pathogens is imperative. The engineered viruses developed in the ferret experiments are maintained in high-security laboratories. The scientists, journal editors and funding agencies involved are working together to ensure that access to specific information that could be used to create dangerous pathogens is limited to those with an established and legitimate need to know.
Paul and Fauci have sparred before, with Fauci recently accusing Paul and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) of “politicizing” him.