This week, ICAN obtained documents showing that Dr. Anthony Fauci’s agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (“NIAID”), raised concerns as early as 2016 that taxpayer funds were being used for gain-of-function research in Wuhan even though the government issued a federal pause on this type of research in 2014. However, EcoHealth Alliance “convinced” the government that it was not gain-of-function and so everyone carried on without further questioning.
During a Senate hearing on July 20, 2021, Senator Rand Paul accused Dr. Fauci of lying when he testified at a prior Congressional hearing that the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”), the agency within which NIAID sits, never fundedgain-of-function research in Wuhan. ICAN wanted to know the basis for Dr. Fauci’s claim. Through its attorneys, ICAN issued a Freedom of Information Act request to NIH for documents showing the basis for Dr. Fauci’s claims and then sued the NIH for the documents in federal court.
This week, ICAN obtained documents from NIH that show the agency was concerned that it may have funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan through a grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which is “a global environmental health nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease.”
In a letter exchange in 2016, NIAID asked EcoHealth to tell the agency why certain research it was doing did or did not meet the definition of gain-of-function, that is, research that makes animal viruses transmissible to humans. EcoHealth, through its President and Chief Scientist, Dr. Peter Daszak, convinced NIAID that its proposed work was not gain-of-function. NIAID, relying primarily on EcoHealth’s representations, determined that the research was not subject to the federal gain-of-function pause.
You can see the entire production here, which also contains more recent exchanges preparing for Dr. Fauci’s July testimony. These communications clearly start with the conclusion that EcoHealth’s research was not gain-of-function. Instead of doing a clean analysis and an honest look to assess what happened, how, and why, Dr. Fauci’s team was interested in only reaching its pre-determined conclusion: the government did not fund gain-of-function research.
We now know that NIAID funded research as recently as 2017 that increased the transmissibility of animal viruses to humans – the very definition of gain-of-function. Seemingly backed into a corner, NIH recently admitted that it did fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan, but blamed EcoHealth for “fail[ing] to report” the true nature of its findings. This raises the question: if EcoHealth failed to report this, should the government have taken its word on other critical issues?
ICAN does not believe that the federal government should be able to blame any other entity for its failure to carefully monitor research that it funded and will continue the fight to hold our federal health agencies accountable.