Newly uncovered documents show that the U.S. government actively funded dangerous research in Wuhan, China, involving coronaviruses leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Intercept reported. The report comes weeks after a classified report by U.S. intelligence agencies allegedly yielded “inconclusive” results about the origins of COVID-19 due to a lack of cooperation from communist China.
The documents show that the National Institutes of Health issued millions of dollars to the EcoHealth Alliance designated for “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” The grant, which acknowledged that researchers in the field were at the “highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs” was intended to give funding “to screen thousands of bat samples for novel coronaviruses” from 2014 to 2019 with the promise for renewal, but the Trump administration halted the grants in April 2020.
“The documents contain several critical details about the research in Wuhan, including the fact that key experimental work with humanized mice was conducted at a biosafety level 3 lab at Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment — and not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as was previously assumed. The documents raise additional questions about the theory that the pandemic may have begun in a lab accident, an idea that Daszak has aggressively dismissed,” The Intercept wrote.
EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak previously denied that there was ever “any evidence of a virus like COVID in the lab.” Emails also show that Daszak thanked Anthony Fauci for minimizing the lab leak theory in exchange for pushing a “natural origin” story.
“I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Daszak wrote to Fauci in April 2020.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul previously questioned Fauci about the nature of the funding that EcoHealth Alliance received from his agency and whether they violated the gain-of-function research ban, but Fauci vehemently denied before lawmakers that the research met the technical definition for “gain-of-function.”
“Gain-of-function research, as you know, is juicing up naturally occurring animal viruses to infect humans. To arrive at the truth, the U.S. government should admit that the Wuhan Virology Institute was experimenting to enhance the coronavirus’s ability to infect humans,” Paul said in May in a congressional hearing.
“With all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect,” Fauci said. “The [National Institutes of Health] has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University who is quoted in the story, took to Twitter to explain why these hidden grants are alarming.
“The documents make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful,” he tweeted on Monday.
The documents make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.
— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) September 7, 2021
“The second grant, ‘Understanding Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in Emerging Infectious Disease Hotspots of Southeast Asia,’ was awarded in August 2020 and extends through 2025. The proposal, written in 2019, often seems prescient, focusing on scaling up and deploying resources in Asia in case of an outbreak of an ’emergent infectious disease’ and referring to Asia as ‘this hottest of the EID hotspots,’” The Intercept reported.