Leading U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Antony Fauci has denied controversial claims by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul that he oversaw the funding of China’s Wuhan Virology Institute, widely believed to be the origin of the covid-19 pandemic.
At a Senate hearing on May 10, Sen. Paul and Dr. Fauci sparred over the U.S. role in funding gain-of-function research on deadly viruses at the Wuhan lab.
In gain-of-function research, researchers studying viruses in the lab sometimes deliberately make them more dangerous to help prepare better for responses to outbreaks that might occur naturally.
Paul asked Fauci if he still supports National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where scientists performed gain-of-function research that makes viruses more infectious or deadly on bat coronaviruses.
“For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the U.S., has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zhengli from the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create superviruses,” Paul claimed. “This gain-of-function research has been funded by the NIH. … Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH lab in Wuhan?”
“Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect,” Dr. Fauci responded. “[The] NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The non-profit group EcoHealth Alliance diverted $600,000 in grants from the NIH to the Wuhan lab in the form of sub-grants from 2014 through 2019, for the purpose of studying bat coronaviruses.
In 2017, the federal government began requiring that any NIH grant proposals involving gain-of-function research undergo a review by an expert panel to evaluate the risk of such work against the potential gains.
But the names of the expert panel members are not publicly available, nor are its reviews of study proposals.
A group of American scientist claimed in early 2020, just before the Coronavirus was declares a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, that policy to monitor gain-of-function