NIH admits US funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan

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NIH admits US funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan

It’s another Fauci flub.

The National Institute of Health has now stunningly admitted to funding gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at China’s Wuhan lab — despite Dr. Anthony Fauci repeatedly insisting to Congress that no such thing happened.

In a letter to Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer on Wednesday, a top NIH official blamed EcoHealth Alliance — the New York City-based nonprofit that has funneled US funds to the Wuhan lab — for not being transparent about the work it was doing.

NIH’s Principal Deputy Director, Lawrence A. Tabak, wrote in the letter that EcoHealth’s “limited experiment” tested if “spike proteins from naturally occurring bat coronaviruses circulating in China were capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model.”

Workers next to a cage with mice (R) inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province.
NIH’s Principal Deputy Director Lawrence A. Tabak blamed a New York City-based nonprofit for not being transparent about the work it was doing in China.
AFP via Getty Images

The lab mice infected with the modified virus “became sicker” than those that were given the unmodified virus, according to Tabak.

“As sometimes occurs in science, this was an unexpected result of the research, as opposed to something that the researchers set out to do,” Tabak said.

Gain-of-function research refers to viruses being taken from animals before they are genetically alerted in a lab to make them more transmissible to humans.

The admission from the NIH official directly contradicts Fauci’s testimony to Congress in May and July when he denied the US had funded gain-of-function projects in the Wuhan.

Lawrence A. Tabak of the NIH's letter to Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.)
Lawrence A. Tabak of the NIH’s letter to Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.)
Lawrence A. Tabak of the NIH's letter to Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.)
Lawrence A. Tabak of the NIH’s letter to Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.)

Fauci has repeatedly clashed with Republican senators, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have accused him of lying about the gain-of-function research.

Sen. Paul erupted on Twitter following the emergence of the NIH letter, saying: ““I told you so” doesn’t even begin to cover it here.”

Tabak, who did not use the term gain-of-function in his letter but alluded to it, said EcoHealth – which is run by British scientist Peter Daszak — failed to comply with the terms of the grant, which required them to “report immediately a one log increase in growth.”

“EcoHealth failed to report this finding right away, as was required by the terms of the grant. EcoHealth is being notified that they have five days from today to submit to NIH any and all unpublished data from the experiments and work conducted under this award,” Tabak said.

Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci repeatedly insisted to Congress that the US did not fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

According to Tabak, the NIH had reviewed EcoHealth’s research plan in advance of approving the grant but claims it wasn’t subjected to additional review at the time as it didn’t fit the definition of “research involving enhanced pathogens of pandemic potential because these bat coronaviruses had not been shown to infect human.”

Tabak said if EcoHealth had alerted NIH to the growth, it would have prompted a review to determine if the research plan should be re-evaluated.

He insisted the bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant could not have become COVID-19 because the “sequences of the viruses are genetically very distant.”

Lawrence A. Tabak of the NIH
Lawrence A. Tabak is an official with the National Institute of Health.
National Institutes of Health

As recently as last month, Fauci was accused of lying about gain-of-function research after documents, obtained by The Intercept, detailed grants given to EcoHealth Alliance for bat coronavirus studies.

That grant proposal detailed in the trove of document 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 $3.1 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 $599,000 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.”

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