The Intercept reports that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, led by Anthony Fauci, funded gain-of-function research carried out at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, the likely source of COVID-19.

The bat coronavirus grant provided EcoHealth Alliance with a total of $3.1 million, including $599,000 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology used in part to identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to infect humans. Even before the pandemic, many scientists were concerned about the potential dangers associated with such experiments. The grant proposal acknowledges some of those dangers: "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."

Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute, said the documents show that EcoHealth Alliance has reason to take the lab-leak theory seriously. "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 said. "Does EcoHealth have those records? And if not, how can they possibly rule out a research-related accident?"

In July Senator Rand Paul asked Fauci about US-funded gain-of-function research and Fauci denied that the research in question qualifies as "gain-of-function".

FAUCI: "Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress and I do not retract that statement. This paper that you're referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain of function. What was -- "

PAUL: "So you -- "

FAUCI: "Let me finish!"

PAUL: "So you take an animal virus and you increase the transmissibility to humans, you're saying that's not gain of function?"

FAUCI: "Yeah, that is correct. And Senator Paul, you do not know what you're talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about. Okay, you get one person -- "

PAUL: "The NIH -- "

FAUCI: "Can I answer?"

PAUL: "This is your definition that you guys wrote. It says that scientific research that increases the transmissibility among mammals is gain of function. They took animal viruses that only occur in animals and they increase their transmissibility to humans. How you can say that is not gain of function -- "

FAUCI: "It is not."

PAUL: "It's a dance and you're dancing around this, because you're trying to obscure responsibility for 4 million people dying around the world from a pandemic."

So Fauci thinks he can parse the terminology in a way that excludes the work he funded from being "gain-of-function", regardless of the plainest, most obvious reading of the definition. Fauci says that Paul isn't qualified to interpret what he has read and heard.

But experienced researchers say that the work described in these newly released grant applications is definitely "gain-of-function", even by the most hair-splitting definition. Rutgers University molecular biologist Richard Ebright writes:

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.

(This had been evident previously from published research papers that credited the 2014 grant and from the publicly available summary of the 2019 grant. But this now can be stated definitively from progress reports of the 2014 grant and the full proposal of the 2017 grant.)

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.

It's not surprising that few people seem very interested in positively identifying the source of COVID-19. Our experts seem to have a conflict-of-interest.

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