The National Institutes of Health admitted Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance broke its reporting rules when conducting bat coronavirus research, with critics immediately contending this means the Wuhan lab collaborator had indeed been conducting gain-of-function research and NIH lied about it.
NIH principal deputy director Lawrence Tabak said in a Wednesday letter that EcoHealth provided a five-year progress report on bat coronavirus research conducted under an NIH grant, and “the limited experiment described in the final progress report” was “testing if spike proteins from naturally occurring bat coronaviruses circulating in China were capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model.”
NIH said, “in this limited experiment, laboratory mice infected with the SHC014 WIV1 bat coronavirus became sicker than those infected with the WIV1 bat coronavirus.” NIH claimed that “as sometimes occurs in science, this was an unexpected result of the research, as opposed to something that the researchers set out to do.”
NIH added: “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 EcoHealth is being notified that they have five days from today to submit to NIH any and all unpublished data from the experiments and work conducted under this award.”
Amid the search for the origins of COVID-19, two of the Biden administration’s top doctors, Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been adamant NIH did not fund so-called gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But both men, the respective leaders of the NIH and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also admit they don’t actually know what the secretive Chinese lab has been up to.
Richard Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Washington Examiner the new NIH letter was a “bombshell” because NIH “corrects the untruthful assertions” by Collins and Fauci “that NIH had not funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan” and because NIH “states that EcoHealth Alliance violated the Terms and Conditions of its NIH grant.”
Ebright added: “The NIH's acknowledgment of the facts is new, but the facts themselves are not new. The NIH was informed about the gain-of-function research in Wuhan in 2018 and again in 2020. Collins and Fauci lied to Congress, lied to the press, and lied to the public."
Fauci told the Senate in May: “I do not have an accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I am fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China. 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.”
The same month, Collins said in an interview: “NIH would not have supported any such research on coronaviruses because there are risks there that you might actually end up producing a virus that has a higher danger attached to it than what nature has already come up with … We have in the United States a rigorous system for overseeing any kind of gain-of-function research like that.” Collins added that “we absolutely did not fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan.”
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and vocal Fauci critic, tweeted Wednesday: "'I told you so' doesn’t even begin to cover it here."
Paul requested in July that Attorney General Merrick Garland criminally investigate Fauci over Senate testimony in which he said NIH never funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab. The senator told the Justice Department that contrary to Fauci’s contention, “this research, conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and funded under NIAID Award R01AI110964, fits the definition of gain-of-function research.” That specific award was the subject of NIH’s new admission.
Gain-of-function research is defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as research “that improves the ability of a pathogen to cause disease" to "enable assessment of the pandemic potential of emerging infectious agents." It warns these studies “may entail biosafety and biosecurity risks.”
After a pause in 2014, HHS announced the creation of the Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight Framework in 2017, which was ostensibly set up to review any grants that might involve gain-of-function research. However, the 2019 renewal of the EcoHealth Alliance grants was not subjected to the P3CO review.
“We now know that American taxpayer dollars funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab,” Republican Rep. James Comer, the ranking member on House Oversight, told the Washington Examiner. “Yesterday, NIH confirmed that EcoHealth violated the terms of their grant by concealing data on dangerous coronavirus experiments in Wuhan. Even worse, NIH Director Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci potentially misled the Committee and the American people about its knowledge of this cover-up.”
NIH’s RePORTER website said the agency provided $15.2 million to Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance over the years, with $3.74 million toward understanding bat coronavirus emergence. Daszak maintained a long working relationship with Wuhan lab “bat lady” Shi Zhengli, sending her lab at least $600,000 in NIH funding. Daszak was also part of the World Health Organization-China team that dismissed the lab leak hypothesis as “extremely unlikely” earlier this year.
The new NIH letter also insisted: “It is important to state at the outset that published genomic data demonstrate that the bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. and subaward to the Wuhan Institute of Virology are not and could not have become SARS-CoV-2.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment this summer stating that one U.S. intelligence agency assessed with “moderate confidence” that COVID-19 most likely emerged from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan, while four U.S. spy agencies and the National Intelligence Council believe with “low confidence” COVID-19 most likely has a natural origin.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers put out a statement saying: “The NIH has acknowledged that EcoHealth violated the terms of its grant and has been non-compliant. Yet, at the same time, NIH takes the word of this grant policy violator that EcoHealth is fully accounting for its research and that none of it had anything to do with the pandemic.”
Documents unearthed last month also revealed that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency rejected a $14.2 million funding request from EcoHealth Alliance in 2018 because DARPA worried that the coronavirus experiment funding request could “potentially involve [gain-of-function] research” and “could have put local communities at risk.”
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy
Original Location: Fauci critics say NIH letter debunks 'gain of function' denial