Gain-of-function research involves genetically engineering bacteria and viruses so that they can be grown or selectively bred to enhance certain biological functions, including to become more virulent or transmissible.
The research is a must for understanding how a pathogen adapts to environmental pressures, allowing disease control measures to be better planned, and potential vaccines and therapies to be explored, according to News Medical.
But the research is controversial. Researchers studying viruses in the lab sometimes deliberately make the viruses more dangerous to help better prepare for outbreaks that might occur naturally. Earlier this year, the top U.S. immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, claimed the U.S. didn’t support gain-of-function research. He also claimed that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) did not fund gain-of-function research at China’s Wuhan lab.
However, documents from Wuhan, if correct, could prove that Fauci’s statements about gain-of-function research were untruthful.
Documents obtained by The Intercept prove that U.S. grants were given to EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that funneled federal funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for bat coronavirus research.
Among the documents was a previously unpublished grant proposal that EcoHealth Alliance, which is run by Peter Daszak, filed with Fauci’s NIH, The New York Post reported.
The grant proposal was for a $3.1 million grant. The grant was awarded for five years between 2014 and 2019. Funding was renewed in 2019 and then suspended by the Trump administration in April 2020.
The grant allotted $599,000 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for bat coronavirus research.
“Surprise surprise – Fauci lied again. And I was right about his agency funding novel Coronavirus research at Wuhan,” Sen. Rand Paul tweeted after the documents were made public.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton joined Paul in criticizing Fauci and went one step further. Cotton called revelations that Fauci appeared to have lied about “gain-of-function” research at the Chinese lab at the center of the coronavirus pandemic “one of the biggest scandals in Washington.” Cotton declared that Fauci should be investigated and prosecuted, The New York Post reported.
“He should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
“You know for 18 months he’s been saddling up his moral high horse and plucking his tongue at college kids who want to go celebrate a football game at an outdoor stadium on a nice fall day or parents who don’t want their kindergartners to have to wear masks their entire lives, telling you you have to wear masks, when all along, he’s been lying, not just in Congress, but to the American people about his role in funding the very reckless and dangerous research at a Chinese Communist lab that unleashed this pandemic on the world,” Cotton continued.
“It is a disgrace, and it’s time for Tony Fauci to be held accountable,” Cotton said.
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Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. 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.”
“Whether or not this (research) was gain-of-function is a political and legal discussion,” Pfizer board member and former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Real Clear Politics. “The bottom line is they were doing research on viruses in that institute that was making those viruses potentially more dangerous to humans. And handling the viruses in ways that could potentiate their release, particularly by infecting transgenic animals that have fully-humanized immune systems.”