The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been the center of speculation that so-called “gain-of-function” research led to the accidental leak of COVID-19.
Now, a 2012 paper written by chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has resurfaced in which he defended the controversial practice as a method of researching various viruses to increase their transmissibility, ostensibly to better defend against them.
“Unlikely but conceivable”
First published in October 2012 by the American Society for Microbiology, a report by The Australian this week brought new light to the nearly decade-old document.
In it, Fauci addressed a voluntary halt on gain-of-function research, generally expressing support for a temporary moratorium but arguing that such testing should eventually resume because the benefits outweighed the potential risks of an accidental release leading to a global pandemic.
Raising the “unlikely but conceivable” scenario that a scientist contracts the virus being studied, he acknowledged that there were “reasonable questions” related to whether such experiments should be conducted at all and what processes were in place to avoid a catastrophic outcome.
Nevertheless, Fauci concluded that “the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.”
In fact, he noted that it “is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature, and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky.”
“Delay or even immobilize”
He did, however, call on the scientific community to provide a better explanation to the general population even if such a dialogue “could potentially delay or even immobilize” the study of communicable pathogens.
In 2014, then-President Barack Obama made official the moratorium that had been voluntarily in place at the time that Fauci wrote the paper.
Subsequently, Fauci acted in his capacity as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to quietly lift the ban on such research, reportedly without alerting senior White House officials in the Trump administration of his decision to resume some gain-of-function studies.
Between 2014 and 2019, Fauci also approved grant funding through the National Institutes of Health that ultimately provided $600,000 in U.S. taxpayer money to the Wuhan lab, which appears to have been engaged in gain-of-function research involving coronaviruses.
Earlier this week, Fauci admitted during congressional testimony that a “modest” amount of U.S. funding went to the Chinese lab but insisted that no taxpayer dollars directly supported gain of function research.