Well, that’s not what the documents published a few days ago by The Intercept said.
Or did they?
Psaki and Fauci have both been slippery about this. Watch her exchange with Peter Doocy this afternoon:
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 9, 2021
Quote: “NIH has never approved any research that would make a coronavirus more dangerous to humans. A reminder that there are previous and different coronaviruses than the existing one we’re battling. And the body of science produced by this research demonstrates that the bat coronavirus sequences published from that work NIH supported were not COVID, the strain, COVID-2 strain. So what he said was correct.”
Fauci made this same rhetorical move in his angry exchange with Rand Paul during testimony on July 20. Paul cited an NIH-backed study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology involving chimeric viruses that had been manipulated to see if they would become more infectious to humans. Doesn’t that mean NIH did fund gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Paul asked Fauci? To which an indignant Fauci replied that it was biologically impossible for the viruses described in that paper to have ultimately been engineered to become SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.
But that wasn’t Paul’s point. He wasn’t claiming that the viruses described in that study caused SARS-CoV-2. His point was that NIH had no objection in principle to funding GOF research at the Wuhan lab, in which case maybe other NIH funding ended up being used for GOF experiments at the WIV which haven’t been made public and which ultimately led to the virus that caused the pandemic. And the Intercept story makes that theory somewhat more plausible. There were more grants to fund bat research in Wuhan, both at the WIV and at the Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment, than were publicly known until now.
Paul had another point in his July 20 questioning of Fauci. He was cornering him on the fact that Fauci had denied — categorically — in his previous testimony on May 11 that *any* gain of function research at the WIV had been funded by NIH. Watch it for yourself at 5:22 of this clip:
.@RandPaul: "Dr. Fauci, do you still support…NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?"
Dr. Anthony Fauci: "Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect…"
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 11, 2021
Categorically. Not only didn’t they fund the GOF experiments that produced SARS-CoV-2, according to Fauci, they didn’t fund *any* GOF experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, period. How can that be reconciled with The Intercept documents?
Was he just being lawyerly? I.e. was he saying under his breath in his exchange with Paul, “although we did fund some at the Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment”?
Or is this another case of Fauci splitting some very thin hairs about the technical definition of “gain of function”? I’ll refer you back to this post if you want to get into the weeds on that. Suffice it to say, some respected scientists like Richard Ebright believe that what the Wuhan lab(s) were doing absolutely qualifies as GOF:
“NIH..supported..construction of..SARS-related coronaviruses that involved blending different types together. The result was a lab-generated virus that could infect human cells”
“at least three..lab-generated viruses..exhibited >10x to >100x higher viral loads in humanized mice”
— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) September 9, 2021
Sounds like Scott Gottlieb also thinks what was going on there constitutes GOF, in spirit at least. Chinese scientists were conducting experiments to make viruses more dangerous to humans, he notes in the clip below. If that’s not the essence of GOF, what is?
"They were doing things in that lab that could have led to circumstances where a virus that was purposefully evolved in ways that it could be more dangerous to humans could have escaped," says @ScottGottliebMD. pic.twitter.com/KxWmL2ITnI
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) September 8, 2021
Not only were they fiddling with SARS-like viruses, they were fiddling with MERS-like ones too. And it wasn’t just the WIV, as noted above, it was the lab at the Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment. Which makes the odds that the virus originated via a lab accident in Wuhan that much higher (although the lab at the WUCAE was apparently a more secure facility than the one at the WIV).
Bottom line: Both Fauci and Psaki have moved the goalposts. Fauci started in May by insisting categorically that his agency never funded any gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute and today Psaki resorted to claiming that none of the viruses described in the work published by the WIV and funded by NIH could have led to SARS-CoV-2. Slippery.