Dr. Anthony Fauci stood by his denial that the National Institutes of Health had funded risky gain-of-function research, despite the NIH admitting EcoHealth Alliance had violated grant rules when conducting bat coronavirus research.
Fauci made the comments during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. Stephanopoulos first played a short clip from an Axios interview with Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who said President Joe Biden should “absolutely” fire Fauci “just for lack of judgment, if nothing else.”
Paul added of Fauci: “He's probably never going to admit that he lied. He's going to continue to dissemble and try to work around the truth and massage the truth.”
Fauci said, “I obviously totally disagree with Senator Paul. He's absolutely incorrect. Neither I nor Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH, lied or misled about what we’ve done,” adding, “he is not correct that we lied or misled the Congress."
Lawrence Tabak, the NIH's principal deputy director, said in a Wednesday letter that Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance provided a five-year progress report on bat coronavirus research conducted under an NIH grant and that “in this limited experiment, laboratory mice infected with the SHC014 WIV1 bat coronavirus became sicker than those infected with the WIV1 bat coronavirus.”
Fauci offered a defense of EcoHealth’s collaboration with the Wuhan lab, saying, “The framework under which we have guidance about the conduct of research that we fund, the funding at the Wuhan Institute was to be able to determine what is out there in the environment, in bat viruses in China. And the research was very strictly under what we call a framework of oversight of the type of research. And under those conditions which we have explained very, very clearly, does not constitute research of gain of function of concern.”
Back in May, Fauci testified that it would have been “almost a dereliction of our duty” if the NIH had not worked with China to study coronaviruses as he defended NIH money going to fund “collaboration” with “very respectable Chinese scientists.”
Stephanopoulos asked if the NIH letter showed that the U.S. had been funding coronavirus research that was riskier than previously known, and Fauci denied that.
“No, it isn't. We knew what the risk was, and what the oversight is. Certainly, they should have put their progress report in in a timely manner. No denial of that, and there will be administrative consequences of that,” Fauci said.
Collins and Fauci have been adamant in claiming the NIH did not fund gain-of-function research at the secretive Chinese government facility. 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."
Fauci also argued Sunday that “there’s all of this concern about what's gain-of-function or what's not, with the implication that that research led to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, which … unequivocally anybody that knows anything about viral biology and phylogeny of viruses know that it is molecularly impossible for those viruses that were worked on to turn into SARS-CoV-2.”
Fauci previously sat in the hot seat in May during a Senate hearing in which he clashed with Paul.
“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," Fauci said, with Collins making similarly definitive denials.
The NIH told the Washington Examiner that EcoHealth Alliance’s research “aimed to advance our understanding of the interactions of the spike protein with the ACE2 receptor, one component of human biology, in viral infection” but insisted “the presence of the human receptor alone is not sufficient to drive human infection.”
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.
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy