The blaring headline in Newsweek: DR. FAUCI BACKED CONTROVERSIAL WUHAN LAB WITH U.S. DOLLARS FOR RISKY CORONAVIRUS RESEARCH.
Did Dr. Anthony Fauci fund, with American taxpayer dollars, the research that produced the coronavirus that has shut down and locked up the mightiest and most free nation in history? The answer is, “Probably yes.” Should he have known better? The answer is, “Indubitably yes.”
Dr. Fauci has been virtually worshiped as an icon by the press and the public has been played by Brad Pitt on Saturday Night Live and is being considered for Sexiest Man of the Year. According to Newsweek, he is something of “an American folk hero for his calm, steady leadership” during the crisis.
Just last year, Dr. Fauci, who heads up the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), sent the scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology a boatload of money to pursue gain-of-function research on bat viruses, research which has been going on at Wuhan for years. “Gain-of-function” refers to research that involves manipulating viruses in the lab “to explore their potential for infecting humans.” (Emphasis mine throughout.)
Writes Newsweek, “Gain-of-function techniques have been used to turn viruses into human pathogens capable of causing a global pandemic.” The catastrophic risks, should one of these manipulated viruses escape containment, are obvious.
The U.S. Embassy warned in January of 2018 that the Wuhan Institute had a record of shoddy practices that could lead to an accidental release. According to its cable, “[T]he new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.”
The Obama administration was so alarmed by worries about an outbreak that they suspended support for this kind of research at Wuhan in 2014. But when Trump took office, Fauci was able to persuade him that it was safe, and the project resumed in 2017. The second tranche of multi-million dollar funding came in 2019, and this stash was particularly devoted to understanding how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans. The National Institutes of Health canceled this project for a second time on April 24, just two weeks ago. Dr. Fauci has not responded to Newsweek’s request for comment.
Richard Ebright, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers University, said the project description refers to experiments that are designed to enhance the ability of bat coronavirus to infect human cells through genetic engineering. The risk of causing a pandemic through an accidental release from the lab is obviously a prime concern. Our intelligence agencies now believe the pandemic outbreak may have emerged “accidentally” due to “unsafe laboratory practices” at the Wuhan lab.
This research at WIV, research funded with our tax dollars, was dedicated to deliberately creating a version of a bat virus that could be transmitted to humans. The insane purpose here was ostensibly to develop such a virus so it could be studied and a therapeutic response developed before it caused a worldwide pandemic. This kind of research is so obviously crazy and dangerous that 200 research scientists wrote a letter pleading that such foolish and potentially lethal research be terminated.
But the NIH, under the direction of Dr. Fauci, sent $3.7 million to the WIV lab in 2014, and then showered the Chinese scientists at this lab with another $3.7 million in 2019 to keep their work going, the work of developing a bat virus that could attack people. Two back-to-back 5-year projects that took $7.4 million out of taxpayer pockets and out of the United States.
When the NIH ended Obama’s moratorium on this research, and the second phase of research began, NIH established a framework to determine how the research would go forward. The heart of the framework was that scientists would have to get approval from a panel of experts who would decide whether the obvious risks were justified.
The kicker here is that these reviews were conducted in secret. After Science magazine discovered that NIH had approved two influenza projects using gain-of-function methods, scientists rightly opposed to this kind of research wrote a scathing editorial in the Washington Post.
The authors were Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins and Mark Liptsitch of Harvard. “We have serious doubts about whether these experiments should be conducted at all. With deliberations kept behind closed doors, none of us will have the opportunity to understand how the government arrived at these decisions or to judge the rigor and integrity of that process."
Dr. Fauci began working in earnest on gain-of-function research over a decade ago, in connection with bird-flu viruses. The research involved taking wild viruses and passing them through live animals until they mutated into a form that could actually pose a pandemic threat. These researchers would take a virus that was poorly transmitted among humans and turn it into one that was highly transmissible.
Ferrets were the animals of choice. Ferrets were deliberately infected and researchers allowed the virus to mutate in the lab’s ferret colony. The mutations continued until the virus was able to infect a ferret that had not been deliberately infected with the disease.
Researcher Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University in Holland knew he had succeeded when a virus jumped from an infected ferret to an uninfected ferret in an adjacent cage who had had no contact with the infected animal. Transmissibility had been achieved, and Fouchier had created a pandemic-causing virus in his lab. Fouchier's work, wrote Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch in the journal Nature in 2015, "entails a unique risk that a laboratory accident could spark a pandemic, killing millions."
A consortium of 17 scientists, the Cambridge Working Group, issued a statement of protest, that was eventually endorsed by 200 scientists (mentioned above) because well, accidents happen. Here’s how the statement read in part: “Laboratory creation of highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses...poses substantially increased risks. An accidental infection in such a setting could trigger outbreaks that would be difficult or impossible to control.”
Fauci defended this kind of research in a 2011 op-ed in the Washington Post, writing that “information gained through biomedical research...provides a critical foundation...for generating countermeasures, and, ultimately protecting the public health.”
Bottom line: it appears that dangerously misguided research in Wuhan, funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars under the direction of Dr. Fauci, created the virus that is now plaguing the world. The research was allowed to continue by Dr. Fauci despite warnings from 200 prominent scientists that such research was exceedingly dangerous. It may be time to ask whether Dr. Fauci is in the right place at the right time.
The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org