Anthony Fauci defended U.S. funding of research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
Host Jake Tapper noted that some experts consider research carried out by the institute, including on bat coronaviruses, to be potentially dangerous. Tapper asked whether Fauci thought the U.S. should continue to collaborate with laboratories such as the Wuhan Institute, especially given their supervision by the Chinese government.
Fauci responded that the research in question intended to complete a “survey of what was going on among the bat population, because everyone in the world was trying to figure out what the original source” of the 2002 SARS epidemic was.
The research, however, didn’t factor in “the fact that you have an oppressive Chinese government that won’t allow transparency,” Tapper countered. “Going forward, are you still confident?”
“If your question Jake is, looking forward, are we going to be very careful about the research that we do, well, we have always been very careful. And, looking forward, we will continue to be very careful in what we do,” Fauci said.
The comments came days after Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) accused Fauci of lying to Congress about whether the U.S. funded so-called “gain-of-function” research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Such research increases the contagiousness or deadliness of a pathogen, and there is some debate as to whether the research at that laboratory qualifies as gain-of-function.
The WIV received roughly $600,000 to study bat coronaviruses as a sub-grant that originated with the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The sub-grant was funneled to the WIV via the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance.