It has been more than a year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic began and its precise origin is still not known. There are, at present, two strong theories: the natural jump between species — of which there is still no reliable proof — and the laboratory accident, of which there is no certainty either, but which is gaining more strength every day.
The latest on the origins of COVID-19 was revealed by The Intercept, in a report titled “New Details Emerge About Coronavirus Research at Chinese Lab”. That article reveals that EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based health non-profit, used money from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to fund “bat coronavirus research at the Chinese laboratory,” known as “gain of function.”
The NIAID is one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where Dr. Anthony Fauci is its official director.
Gain of function basically consists of genetically altering a virus to make it more transmissible and assess its future risks to humans, according to the CDC.
“Gain-of-function research is a type of research that attempts to alter the functional characteristics of a virus. Examples of gain-of-function research include research that attempts to generate mutations in a virus that could make it more transmissible, infect a wide variety of hosts, increase the severity of disease, or make it more resistant to existing drugs, treatments, or vaccines,” the CDC website reads.
This experiment is controversial because of its enormous risk, as mishandling of biosafety equipment by personnel or not having biosafety equipment that meets the necessary requirements can lead to outbreaks of viruses that are potentially dangerous to humans.
What do the new documents say and why are they so important?
“Newly released documents provide details of U.S.-funded,” claims The Intercept, which obtained more than 900 pages revealing details of EcoHealth Alliance and NIAID’s involvement along with NIH in gain-of-function research and other studies related to bat coronaviruses.
“The trove of documents includes two previously unpublished grant proposals that were funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as project updates relating to the EcoHealth Alliance’s research, which has been scrutinized amid increased interest in the origins of the pandemic,” reported the outlet, which obtained the documents through ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation.
One of the grants was called “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” which “describes an ambitious effort led by EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak to screen thousands of bat samples for new coronaviruses,” The Intercept reported.
A salient point revealed in these documents is that, unlike previously reported, “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.”
According to Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, the disclosed documents show that NIH funded the gain-of-function experiment, despite Dr. Anthony Fauci’s repeated denials of this assertion.
“The materials show that the 2014 and 2019 NIH grants to EcoHealth with subcontracts to WIV funded gain-of-function research as defined in federal policies in effect in 2014-2017 and potential pandemic pathogen enhancement as defined in federal policies in effect in 2017-present,” the biologist notes in one of his tweets.
“The materials confirm the grants supported the construction–in Wuhan–of novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses that combined a spike gene from one coronavirus with genetic information from another coronavirus, and confirmed the resulting viruses could infect human cells,” he added.
“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.”
Gain-of-function may be the source of the pandemic
The new papers alerted the scientific community. Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute, told The Intercept that these papers should be of sufficient concern to EcoHealth Alliance because the papers hint at the possibility that the pandemic may have originated in a laboratory accident.
“In this proposal, they actually point out that they know how risky this work is. They keep talking about people potentially getting bitten — and they kept records of everyone who got bitten,” Chan told the media outlet. “Does EcoHealth have those records? And if not, how can they possibly rule out a research-related accident?”
Robert Kessler, director of communications for EcoHealth Alliance, downplayed the significance of the documents in a comment to The Intercept, “We applied for grants to conduct research. The relevant agencies deemed that to be important research, and thus funded it. So I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to say.”
For his part, Gary Ruskin, a researcher and executive director of U.S. Right To Know — an organization that has dedicated itself to searching for the origins of the virus — also told The Intercept that these documents are a sort of “roadmap to the high-risk research that could have led to the current pandemic.”
“Fauci lied”: Rand Paul and Republicans against the scientist
The new revelation is not only very important in the efforts to search for the origin of the pandemic, but also opens up a range of problems for Dr. Fauci, the White House’s main standard-bearer for coronavirus research.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) on several occasions clashed with Fauci over health restrictions and rumors about NIH funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for coronavirus experiments. The senator welcomed the new documents with open arms and accused Fauci on Twitter of lying under oath.
The senator said he has already asked “the Justice Department to review Fauci’s testimony for lying to Congress. This report should make it very clear that he should be held accountable.”
Josh Hawley (R-MO), also commented on the new information on his Twitter account: “Anthony Fauci has repeatedly and deliberately misled Congress and the American people. Resign. And face a Congressional investigation.”