Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Reuters)
Newly released documents appear to contradict Dr. Anthony Fauci’s repeated claims that the NIH did not fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
The internal documents detail the work of EcoHealth Alliance, an American research non-profit which used NIH funding to research novel bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab. Among the documents, which were obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request, is a previously unpublished EcoHealth Alliance grant proposal filed with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which is run by Fauci.
The proposal requests $3.1 million for a project titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” which involved screening thousands of lab workers for novel bat coronaviruses. The grant was awarded for five years, from 2014 to 2019, and was subsequently renewed before being suspended by the Trump administration. The proposal directs $599,000 of the total grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for research designed to make the viruses more dangerous and/or infectious — and its author acknowledged the danger associated with such work.
“Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled,” it read.
After reviewing the documents, Gary Ruskin, executive director of a group probing COVID’s origins called U.S. Right to Know, told the Intercept that the grant was a “road map to the high-risk research that could have led to the current pandemic.”
Fauci has repeatedly insisted during his Senate testimony that the research being funded by the NIH at the WIV did not qualify as “gain-of-function” under the NIH’s current definition. But critics, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, have accused Fauci of playing semantic games by excluding research which makes bat coronaviruses more transmissible — the commonly accepted definition of “gain-of-function” — from his more convenient definition.
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