Pictured – Left: “Bat woman” Shi Zhengli, head of the Wuhan lab, Right: Anthony Fauci, funder of the Wuhan lab
The Washington Examiner:
“You have argued over the years that gain-of-function research is a risk worth taking, given the potential benefits for the creation of vaccines and therapeutics,” Rep Mike Gallagher (R-WI) told Fauci. “Does the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of a leak from the WIV raise questions about the future prudence of gain-of-function research? How can we quantify the risks associated with this type of research in the future, particularly when it comes to non-transparent countries like China, and at what point does this research simply become too risky?”
Gallagher tweeted this week that “the cause of this pandemic is the most important question facing the world,” and so, “I wrote to Dr. Fauci demanding answers to questions we cannot ignore about Covid’s potential lab origins, the role of U.S. funding for Chinese labs, and his support for this reckless research.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill are pushing the Biden administration to provide information about what the U.S. government knows about the potential origins of COVID-19, with one GOP congressman pressing Dr. Anthony Fauci about his support for gain-of-function research and about National Institutes of Health funding going to a Wuhan lab.
Officials from both the Trump and Biden administrations have said that the Chinese government worked for over a year to thwart an independent investigation into the origins of the virus, which has killed 3.25 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, and both administrations cast doubt on the manner in which the WHO-China study was conducted in early 2021. Though the WHO-China report said a jump from animals to humans was most likely, Trump officials have pointed to an accidental escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a highly plausible origin for the pandemic.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, wrote a letter to Fauci this week asking for answers on NIH’s relationship with the Wuhan lab.
Through National Institutes of Health grants to the New York-based organization EcoHealth Alliance, the U.S. government helped fund research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. While this funding was no doubt well-intentioned, taxpayers deserve a detailed understanding of whether federal resources supported dangerous ‘gain-of-function’ research, and whether this might have played a role in the outbreak of the pandemic,” Gallagher wrote. “As the world seeks to recover from this pandemic, Americans deserve to understand not only how this catastrophe came about, but that their government is learning and internalizing lessons to ensure it does not happen again.”
EcoHealth Alliance received at least $3.4 million from 2014, and Peter Daszak, a key member of the WHO-China joint study team who is also the leader of the EcoHealth Alliance, steered at least $600,000 in National Institutes of Health funding to the Wuhan lab for bat coronavirus research, also criticizing the Biden administration for appearing skeptical of the WHO’s findings and defending China to Chinese Communist Party-linked outlets.
U.S. Embassy officials in China raised concerns in 2018 about lax biosecurity at the Wuhan lab led by “bat woman” Shi Zhengli, who had worked with EcoHealth Alliance and Daszak.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said in March that the joint WHO-China team had not fully investigated the potential of COVID-19 originating through an accidental leak from a Wuhan lab, a hypothesis he insisted still needed further study despite being essentially dismissed by the WHO-China team.
A State Department fact sheet released in mid-January contended Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar)” and that the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet added that the lab “has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military.”
“The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses,” the State Department fact sheet said, arguing that “this raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was ‘zero infection’ among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.”