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Fauci Reportedly Relaunched NIH Gain-of-Function Research without Consulting White House

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, April 17, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, who has done invaluable work in calling attention to the possibility that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, broke some news during his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience on Tuesday.

After laying out the circumstantial evidence that COVID originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Rogin explained why Dr. Anthony Fauci, like many in the world of virology research, has a vested professional interest in downplaying the likelihood that so-called gain-of-function research — of the kind performed at the Wuhan lab — not only failed to prevent the ongoing global pandemic but actually may have played a hand in unleashing it.

“The Godfather of [gain-of-function virology research], the head of the pyramid, is a guy you may have heard of called Anthony Fauci,” Rogin said. “So, Anthony Fauci, the hero of the pandemic, is the most important person in the world of gain-of-function research there is . . . Basically, he is the one disbursing all the grants for this, he is the one who pushed to turn it back on after Obama turned it off, that’s another crazy story, he turned it back on without really consulting the White House.”

“He consulted the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is part of the White House, but the White House put a pause on it and he undid the pause,” Rogin continued. “The details are a little sketchy. I’m not saying he did anything necessarily wrong or illegal, but I’m saying that a lot of people that I know inside the Trump administration had no idea that he had turned this back on. He found a way to turn it back on in the mess of the Trump administration because the Trump administration is full of a bunch of clowns, so you could get things done if you knew how to work the system.”

As Rogin himself admits, “the details are a little sketchy,” and we’ll have to take a look at the sourcing included in whatever article this piece of news appears in before alleging any wrongdoing. But Rogin has banked significant credibility by questioning the mainstream COVID-origin consensus. He dealt a significant blow to the media’s near-religious faith in the natural-transmission theory by reporting on the existence of 2018 State Department cables that raised concerns about the lack of safety protocols at the Wuhan lab, which was performing gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the time.

The Obama administration suspended gain-of-function research in 2014 after a series of lab accidents involving pathogens at CDC headquarters in Georgia.

A Nature article from October 2014 lays out the rationale for the suspension:

Critics of such work argue that it is unnecessarily dangerous and risks accidentally releasing viruses with pandemic potential — such as an engineered H5N1 influenza virus that easily spreads between ferrets breathing the same air12. In 2012, such concerns prompted a global group of flu researchers to halt gain-of-function experiments for a year (see Nature http://doi.org/wgx; 2012). The debate reignited in July, after a series of lab accidents involving mishandled pathogens at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

The White House’s abrupt move seems to be a response to renewed lobbying by gain-of-function critics who wanted such work suspended and others who sought to evaluate its risks and benefits without disrupting existing research.

According to Rogin, much of the gain-of-function research that was being conducted in the U.S. prior to the moratorium subsequently migrated to China — and EcoHealth Alliance, the U.S. research nonprofit, secured its grant to funnel NIH money to the WIV in 2015, less than a year after the moratorium was put in place. If Fauci did indeed use bureaucratic maneuvering to resume gain-of-function research on U.S. soil, as Rogin alleges, he has some explaining to do — even if domestic research isn’t to blame for our current pandemic.

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