Stop the Madness: It’s Time to Ban Risky Gain-of-Function Experiments
Story at a glance:
- EcoHealth Alliance was a key participant in risky gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan, China, which is now suspected of having played a role in the creation of SARS-CoV-2. That research was funded by dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
- Despite EcoHealth’s shady history and potential role in the covid-19 pandemic, Fauci, before leaving office, is now giving EcoHealth another $3.3 million in additional funding.
- The NIAID has approved a $653,392 EcoHealth grant to analyze “the potential for future bat coronavirus emergence in Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.” That sum is for the first year of a five-year project, so the total funding comes out to about $3.3 million.
- In addition to collecting and cataloging novel bat coronaviruses, EcoHealth will also “rapidly supply viral sequences and isolates for use in vaccine and therapeutic development, including ‘prototype pathogen’ vaccines.”
- Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst has introduced the “Defund EcoHealth Alliance Act,” which specifies that “No funds authorized or appropriated by federal law may be made available for any purpose to EcoHealth Alliance Inc, including any subsidiaries and related organizations that are directly controlled by EcoHealth Alliance Inc.” This does not go far enough, however, as there are many others that would simply take their place. What we need is a ban on dual-use, gain-of-function research.
‘Stop the Money, Stop the Madness’: It’s Time to Ban Risky Gain-of-Function Experiments
Despite EcoHealth Alliance’s shady history and potential role in the covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci just gave EcoHealth another $3.3 million in additional funding for dangerous gain-of-function research.
EcoHealth Alliance has received quite a bit of notoriety over the past three years as a key participant in risky gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan, China, funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci at the NIAID.
EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak was one of the 15 co-authors of the 2015 paper, “SARS-Like Cluster of Circulating Bat Coronavirus Pose Threat for Human Emergence,” which biowarfare expert Francis Boyle claims is “the smoking gun” that reveals the culprits responsible for the covid-19 pandemic.
EcoHealth is also linked to U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine by way of Nathan Wolfe, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader graduate, who has been on EcoHealth’s editorial board since 2004.
Wolf is the founder of Metabiota, now implicated in the operation of biolabs in Ukraine that Russia claims have been conducting secret bioweapons research.
Many articles have been written detailing EcoHealth’s suspected role in the covid-19 pandemic, as well as the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) funding of its risky gain-of-function research, yet despite that, Fauci, before leaving office, is now giving EcoHealth another $3.3 million in additional funding.
To understand just how outrageous this is, let’s review some of what we know about EcoHealth and its research history.
EcoHealth has a long history of risky research
In a March 31 investigative report, Vanity Fair contributor Katherine Eban reviewed the contents of more than 100,000 EcoHealth Alliance documents, including meeting minutes and internal emails and reports, most of which predate the covid-19 pandemic, showing a disturbing reality of “murky grant agreements, flimsy NIH oversight and pursuit of government grants by pitching increasingly risky global research.”
Records show EcoHealth received a $3.7 million NIAID grant in 2014 to study the risk of bat coronavirus emergence and the potential for outbreaks in human populations. Nearly $600,000 of that went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which was a key collaborator.
Warning bells started ringing in 2016, when EcoHealth failed to submit its annual progress report. NIAID threatened to withhold funds until the report was filed, and when Daszak finally submitted it, grant specialists found cause for concern.
According to the report, Daszak and his collaborators were seeking to create an infectious clone of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a novel coronavirus with a 35% mortality rate. To that end, they constructed two chimeric coronaviruses that were similar to SARS, the virus responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
The report prompted NIH grant specialists to ask whether the work should be subject to the federal moratorium on gain-of-function research on influenza, SARS and MERS viruses, which had been in place since October 2014.
NIH and EcoHealth circumvented moratorium rules
The moratorium had some loopholes, however, which Daszak exploited to continue his research. In a June 2016 response to the grant specialists, Daszak claimed the SARS-like chimeras they’d constructed were exempt from the moratorium because the viral strains used were not known to infect humans.
In his letter to the NIH, Daszak also referenced a 2015 paper written by Shi Zhengli and Ralph Baric, Ph.D., which detailed an experiment in which they mixed components of SARS-like viruses of different species to create a novel chimera capable of directly infecting human cells.
Incidentally, this research was funded by both the NIH and EcoHealth. According to Daszak, the chimera produced was less lethal than the original SARS, so his chimera would probably be less lethal as well.
However, the NIH grant specialists were far from reassured that his MERS chimera wouldn’t be dangerous, as Shi and Baric in that 2015 paper had noted the danger of such experiments, stressing that “scientific review panels may deem similar studies … too risky to pursue.”
Daszak then proposed a compromise. If any of the chimeric strains showed 10 times greater growth than a natural virus, he would immediately cease experiments, inform the NIAID program officer and the Institutional Biosafety Committee of the results, and participate in decision-making trees to decide how to move forward.
A clear case of regulatory failure
Considering the rationale for the research was that these pathogens could potentially cause a pandemic, Daszak’s claim that the research posed no such risk is rather contradictory. Daszak’s argument also had another hole in it.
Three months before Daszak suggested the virus they were going to use as the backbone for the chimeras, dubbed WIV1, had “never been demonstrated to infect humans or cause human disease,” his collaborator, Baric, had published a paper showing WIV1 did indeed have the ability to infect humans.
Baric, who works at the University of North Caroline Chapel Hill, had found the WIV1 virus “readily replicated efficiently in human airway cultures and in vivo,” and posed an “ongoing threat” to the human population. This completely contradicts Daszak’s statement, and it’s doubtful that Daszak would not be aware of the paper published by Baric three months earlier.
It’s doubtful the NIH would be ignorant of Baric’s finding as well.
Despite all of that, the NIH agreed to Daszak’s proposal. Shi — a Chinese operative with ties to the Chinese military — would be responsible for informing Daszak if any of the chimeras had 10 times the growth rate of a natural virus, and Daszak would inform the agency of the results so that they could decide the fate of the experiment.
It appears none of that actually happened. When EcoHealth’s scientists performed the experiment, one of the chimeric viruses did in fact grow much faster than the others, producing a viral load that was four logs greater than the parent virus.
This should have triggered the chain of oversight proposed by Daszak, but according to NIH principal deputy director Lawrence Tabak, Ph.D., EcoHealth didn’t inform the NIH program officer about this gain of function.
NIH corrects untruthful assertions by NIH Director Collins and NIAID Director Fauci that NIH had not funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
NIH states that EcoHealth Alliance violated Terms and Conditions of NIH grant AI110964. pic.twitter.com/cFOtJlRoWl
— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) October 20, 2021
EcoHealth, meanwhile, claims it did, and was permitted by default to continue, as no one at the NIH objected. Whatever the truth of that might be, what’s clear is that the NIH accepted EcoHealth’s proposal to circumvent gain-of-function rules.
And, while everyone involved has tried to deny that this research had anything to do with gain of function, Daszak explicitly admitted it in a July 2016 email to the NIH. “This is terrific!” he wrote. “We are very happy to hear that our Gain of Function research funding pause has been lifted.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Why is Fauci now funding EcoHealth again?
Considering that backstory — and that’s just one story raising questions about EcoHealth’s research ethics and role in the covid-19 pandemic — why is Fauci now flooding EcoHealth with fresh funds?
As reported by Unherd.com Oct. 3:
“The NGO run by Peter Daszak has been granted another $600,000 by Anthony Fauci’s agency, NIAID. This, to say the least, has raised eyebrows. It’s hard to overstate the role Daszak has played in pandemic-related issues.
“His EcoHealth Alliance is the organization responsible for funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars, sourced from US government grants to the now infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology, considered by many to be the likely source of the pandemic.
“As I previously reported, he was the go-to source for the American media as they sought to ‘prove’ that the lab leak theory was little more than a Right-wing conspiracy. He also surreptitiously organized a letter in The Lancet, attempting to shut down the debate by labelling this potential origin as a ‘conspiracy theory.’
“Most alarmingly, it was Daszak who submitted a 2018 proposal to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] that called for scientists to insert a furin cleavage site — a key distinguishing and extremely rare feature of SARS-Cov-2 — into SARS-like viruses.
“In other words: a blueprint for making SARS-2 in a lab.
“Daszak’s government funding was shut off in 2020, a move that spooked the EcoHealth Alliance chief, who urged staff and partners to refrain from making key genetic data public by uploading it to NIH’s genetic database, GenBank.
“Daszak told his colleagues that the genetic information could bring ‘unwelcome attention’ (he was right).
“Numerous experts … have called on Congress to subpoena Daszak. Instead, the government has supercharged his funding.
“While recent headlines about a fresh $600,000 grant are accurate, the reality is that Daszak’s organization was awarded about five times that, $3.3 million, by the NIH to hunt viruses in south-east Asia.”
The $653,392 grant to analyze “the potential for future bat coronavirus emergence in Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam,” issued Sept. 21 is for the first year of a five-year project, which is how the funding comes out to a total of about $3.3 million.
Predictive pandemic planning is a fantasy
The rationale behind the hunt for novel zoonotic viruses is that it will help researchers prepare against future pandemic threats. But looking at the volumes of papers published on coronaviruses, including chimeric coronaviruses suspected of being precursors to SARS-CoV-2, it’s clear that none of it helped prevent a global pandemic.
On the contrary, the evidence seems to point to the covid-19 pandemic being the result of such research. So, why is the NIH still funding the very organization that gave money to and worked with the very lab the whole world now suspects might be the source of the covid-19 pandemic?
As specified in the grant abstract, EcoHealth will also “rapidly supply viral sequences and isolates for use in vaccine and therapeutic development, including ‘prototype pathogen’ vaccines, via an existing MOU [memorandum of understanding] with the NIAID-CREID [NIAID’s Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases] network.”
Bill introduced to prevent EcoHealth alliance funding
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst has now introduced a bill to put a permanent end to the government’s funding of the EcoHealth Alliance.
“Giving taxpayer money to EcoHealth to study pandemic prevention is like paying a suspected arsonist to conduct fire safety inspections,” she told the Daily Caller, adding:
“NIH got it right when it canceled the funding for the experiments EcoHealth Alliance was conducting with China’s state-run Wuhan Institute.
“In addition to violating multiple federal laws, EcoHealth has still not turned over documents about these dangerous studies that NIH has requested on multiple occasions that could offer vital clues to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have introduced legislation to guarantee EcoHealth doesn’t receive another penny from any federal agency and to launch an investigation to determine once and for all how much U.S. taxpayer money was funneled into labs in China by EcoHealth.
“The bill, dubbed the ‘Defund EcoHealth Alliance Act,’ specifies that ‘No funds authorized or appropriated by Federal law may be made available for any purpose to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc, including any subsidiaries and related organizations that are directly controlled by EcoHealth Alliance, Inc.’”
‘Stop the money, stop the madness’
Justin Goodman, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at White Coat Waste Project, spoke out in support of the bill, telling the Daily Caller:
“EcoHealth Alliance’s animal experiments should be de-funded, not re-funded.
“As we first exposed, this shady group funneled US tax dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for dangerous animal experiments that likely caused the pandemic, skirted a federal ban on gain-of-function research, repeatedly violated transparency law and obstructed investigations into covid’s origins.
“Yet, records show that EHA [EcoHealth Alliance] has continued to receive millions of taxpayer dollars just since the pandemic began. We applaud Sen. Ernst for working to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to fund this reckless rogue lab contractor any longer. Stop the money, stop the madness.”
We really need to ban all gain-of-function research
As detailed in “The Covid Rabbit Hole: An Inside Look at the Virus’ Origin,” evidence points to SARS-CoV-2 being the result of a lab leak, and that Fauci, Daszak and other researchers, China, the mainstream media, the World Health Organization and tech companies have all worked together to cover it up.
“All so-called biodefense research is biowarfare research. There’s no hard line separating the two. Hence the term ‘dual use’ research. What we need is a ban on dual use gain of function research, i.e., research in which a pathogen is equipped with new functions that makes it more dangerous, which could be used for good or ill.”
Covid-19 would not be the first infectious outbreak caused by a lab leak, and it surely won’t be the last — if we continue to allow mad scientists to continue this kind of work, that is. It’s important to realize that all so-called biodefense research is biowarfare research. There’s no hard line separating the two.
So, while Daszak, Fauci and the rest insist that gain-of-function research on human pathogens is necessary for defensive purposes, be it to prepare for zoonotic spillover or a terrorist biowarfare attack, the very same research also constitutes the creation of illegal bioweapons. Hence, the term “dual-use” research.
As noted in the journal of Science and Engineering Ethics back in 2007:
“The dual-use dilemma arises in the context of research in the biological and other sciences as a consequence of the fact that one and the same piece of scientific research sometimes has the potential to be used for bad as well as good purposes.
“It is an ethical dilemma since it is about promoting good in the context of the potential for also causing harm, e.g., the promotion of health in the context of providing the wherewithal for the killing of innocents.
“It is an ethical dilemma for the researcher because of the potential actions of others, e.g., malevolent non-researchers who might steal dangerous biological agents, or make use of the original researcher’s work. And it is a dilemma for governments concerned with the security of their citizens, as well as their health.”
While Sen. Ernst’s Defund EcoHealth Alliance Act would end the government’s funding of one reckless research entity, there are many others that would simply take its place. So, in that regard, it would accomplish very little.
What we really need is a ban on dual-use, gain-of-function research, i.e., research in which a pathogen is equipped with new functions that makes it more dangerous, which could be used for good or ill. We simply do not need this kind of research. It’s all offensive, as it hasn’t prevented a single epidemic or pandemic to date.
November 27, 2022