Anthony Fauci has been accused of being “untruthful” about gain-of-function research at China’s Wuhan lab.
Dr Anthony Fauci has been accused by critics of lying after newly released documents appear to contradict his claims that the National Institute of Health did not fund gain-of-function research at China’s Wuhan lab.
Senator Rand Paul led the criticism against Dr Fauci on Tuesday after the documents, obtained by The Intercept, detailed grants given to EcoHealth Alliance — the non-profit that funnelled federal funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for bat coronavirusresearch.
Included in the trove of documents is a previously unpublished grant proposal that EcoHealth Alliance, which is run by Peter Daszak, filed with Dr Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Dr Fauci has repeatedly insisted that NIH funding of the Wuhan lab does not constitute as “gain-of-function” research, which modifies the biological agent, and in the case of a virus, could increase its transmissibility or virulence.
“Surprise surprise – Fauci lied again. And I was right about his agency funding novel coronavirus research at Wuhan,” Senator Paul tweeted after the documents were made public.
In a follow-up tweet later in the day Tuesday, Senator Paul said he was referring the issue to the Department of Justice.
“I have already asked the DOJ to review Fauci’s testimony for lying to Congress,” he wrote. “This report should make it abundantly clear that he needs to be held accountable.”
The grant proposal included in the documents was for a project titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” which involved screening thousands of bat samples, as well as people who worked with live animals, for novel coronaviruses, the outlet said.
The $US3.1 million ($4.2 million) grant was awarded for a five-year period between 2014 and 2019. After the funding was renewed in 2019, it was suspended by the Trump administration in April 2020.
The grant directed $US599,000 ($813,000) to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for bat coronavirus research.
The proposal acknowledged the risks of such research, saying: “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.”
The documents also include a second grant titled “Understanding Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in Emerging Infectious Disease Hotspots of Southeast Asia,” which was awarded in August last year.
Under the terms and conditions of that grant approval, there is a section noting that prior to “further altering the mutant viruses,” the NIAID needs to be given a “detailed description of the proposed alterations and supporting evidence for the anticipated phenotypics characteristics of each virus.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Picture: Greg Nash/Pool/AFPRichard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, said the documents – obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request — made it clear that Dr Fauci had been “untruthful” about gain-of-function research.
“The documents make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful,” he tweeted.
“The materials show that the 2014 and 2019 NIH grants to EcoHealth with subcontracts to WIV funded gain-of-function research as defined in federal policies in effect in 2014-2017 and potential pandemic pathogen enhancement as defined in federal policies in effect in 2017-present.
“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.”
Gary Ruskin, executive director of US Right To Know, told The Intercept that the documents provided a “road map to the high-risk research that could have led to the current pandemic”.
Dr Fauci has repeatedly insisted that NIH funding of the Wuhan lab does not constitute ‘gain-of-function’ research. Picture: Hector Retamal/AFPNIH funding of work at the Wuhan lab has come under increasing scrutiny amid the pandemic, with Republican senators like Dr Paul of Kentucky and Tom Cotton of Arkansas accusing Dr Fauci of lying about whether the money was used for gain-of-function research.
According to another report, the NIH funded a total of 65 research projects at the Wuhan institute — more than Dr Fauci had let on.
The investigation published by The Australian also claimed that many of the projects involved “risky research on bat coronaviruses”.
The report, based on a soon-to-be-released book titled What Really Happened in Wuhan, claims that top US officials were unaware that Dr Fauci had lifted an NIH ban on gain-of-function research.
“I was in meeting after meeting with Dr Fauci and that never came up,” former national security advisor Robert O’Brien told the author. “I don’t know if he alerted anyone. I never heard about it until I was out of office.”
Dr Fauci has repeatedly testified in front of politicians that the NIH has not funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.
He has clashed with Senator Paul on a number of occasions, including in May when the infectious disease expert was grilled about the origins of Covid-19 and funding of the Wuhan lab on Capitol Hill.
Dr Fauci clashed with Mr Paul during a Senate hearing in July. Picture: Supplied“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect … the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute,” Dr Fauci said.
They butted heads again during a Senate hearing in July when the Kentucky senator quizzed Dr Fauci about his earlier testimony in which he denied NIH-funded gain-of-function research.
“Dr Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11 where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain-of-function research and move on?” he asked during testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Senator Paul, citing two academic papers by the Wuhan institute, accused Dr Fauci of “obfuscating the truth” by not admitting that the lab was involved in gain-of-function research.
“Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement. This paper that you’re referring to was judged by qualified staff, up and down the chain, as not being gain-of-function,” Dr Fauci said.
“Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.”
The proposal was for a project titled ‘Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,’ which involved screening thousands of bat samples. Picture: Johannes Eisele/AFPThe senator went on to describe the definition of gain-of-function, including how it involves increasing the transmissibility of a virus in animals to humans.
“They took animal viruses that only occur in animals and they increased their transmissibility to humans,” he said, referring to scientists at the Wuhan lab.
“How you can say that is not ‘gain-of-function,’ it’s a dance, and you’re dancing around this, because you’re trying to obscure responsibility for four million people dying around the globe because of the pandemic.”
Dr Fauci responded, “Senator, because if you look at the viruses that were used in the experiments that were given in the annual reports that were published in the literature, it is molecularly impossible.
“I want everyone to understand that if you look at those viruses, and that’s judged by qualified biologists and evolutionary biologists, those viruses are molecularly impossible (to result in Covid).
“And you are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals, I totally resent that, and if anybody was lying here, Senator, it is you.”
Dr Fauci’s boss, NIH director Francis Collins, issued a statement in May denying claims the NIH or NIAID had supported specific “gain-of-function” research.
“NIH and NIAID have for many years supported grants to learn more about viruses lurking in bats and other mammals that have the potential to spill over to humans and cause widespread disease,” Dr Collins said.
“However, 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.”
Emily Crane, NY Post
This article originally appeared on NY Post and was reproduced with permission