US Scientist Involved in Gain-of-Function Research Calls for Investigation Into Possible Lab Leak Origin of COVID-19

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

As we watched Dr. Anthony Fauci respond to Sen. Rand Paul’s questions during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday and observed his demeanor as he repeatedly vehemently and angrily denied that NIH funding had been sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) for gain-of-function research or for any research on “this” virus, along with other emphatic denials, many of us thought Fauci may be protesting too much. If there was nothing untoward going on, “Why so nervous?”

Well, we know one reason Fauci was so nervous is that the NIH’s involvement with gain-of-function research and the WIV is well documented, as we reported Thursday.

Sen. Paul also asked Dr. Fauci if it was possible that COVID-19 escaped from a laboratory. He led up to the question itself with some interesting quotes from Dr. Ralph Baric, the UNC-Chapel Hill scientist who worked closely with Dr. Shi at WIV on gain-of-function research on coronaviruses (emphasis added):

Government defenders of gain of function, such as yourself, say that COVID-19 mutations were random and not designed by man. But interestingly, the technique that Dr. Baric developed forces mutations by serial passage through cell culture that the mutations appear to be natural. In fact, Dr. Baric named the technique the “No See ’em” technique, because the mutations appear naturally. Nicholas Baker in the New York Magazine said, “Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature.” Government authorities in the US, including yourself, unequivocally deny that COVID-19 could have escaped a lab, but even Dr. Shi in Wuhan wasn’t so sure. According to Nicholas Baker, Dr. Shi wondered could this new virus have come from her own laboratory.

Dr. Baric, an advocate of gain-of-function research admits the main problem that the Institute of Virology has is the outbreak occurred in close proximity. What are the odds? Baric responded, “Could you rule out a laboratory escape? The answer, in this case, is probably not.”

Fauci’s reply was interesting. In the long lead-up to his question, Sen. Paul didn’t mention gain-of-function research or NIH funding of that type of research, yet Fauci brought it up in his answer with another emphatic denial:

I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I’m fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China. However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Now, Fauci did say that he’s in favor of investigating what went on in China (which the WHO allegedly already did, and isn’t that good enough for Fauci?), but in the context of his entire testimony, it seems like more of a throwaway invitation. While discussing the testimony on Thursday night’s Fox News at Night, Steve Hilton said Fauci’s repeated and unprovoked denials were a massive red flag:

That, to me, is the biggest sign so far that there really is something that we need to look into.

We know that one tactic the left uses to skirt taking responsibility for their failures is to get out ahead of a scandal they know is coming and flood the zone with their spin. On Tuesday, the narrative in the media and among lefty politicians regarding the thought that Wuhan flu could have originated at the WIV was, “What a terrible conspiracy theory.” For example, Sen. Tina Smith questioned Fauci immediately after Sen. Paul, and her first question was:

I want to just, following up on that exchange, just ask Dr. Fauci a question. Dr. Fauci, what is the impact of conspiracy theories pedal by Senator Rand Paul and others on American’s willingness to take this vaccine, a vaccine that by all accounts is remarkable for its safety and efficacy?

Fauci replied:

Well, conspiracy theories certainly are not helpful in what we’re trying to do. I guess I can say that with some degree of confidence.

Fast-forward to Thursday. Seemingly completely out of the blue, a group of 18 of the most prominent virologists and epidemiologists across the globe published an open letter in Science Magazine Online titled, “Investigate the Origins of COVID-19.”

Guess who one of the signatories was? That’s right. Dr. Ralph Baric. In the introductory paragraph they state they believe that theories of a laboratory origin remain viable:

“[M]ore investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic. Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable.”

Then they articulate their lack of confidence in the study done by the WHO and China regarding COVID-19’s origins and a possible lab leak:

In May 2020, the World Health Assembly requested that the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general work closely with partners to determine the origins of SARS-CoV-2 (2). In November, the Terms of Reference for a China–WHO joint study were released (3). The information, data, and samples for the study’s first phase were collected and summarized by the Chinese half of the team; the rest of the team built on this analysis. Although there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spillover or a lab accident, the team assessed a zoonotic spillover from an intermediate host as “likely to very likely,” and a laboratory incident as “extremely unlikely” [(4), p. 9]. Furthermore, the two theories were not given balanced consideration. Only 4 of the 313 pages of the report and its annexes addressed the possibility of a laboratory accident (4). Notably, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus commented that the report’s consideration of evidence supporting a laboratory accident was insufficient and offered to provide additional resources to fully evaluate the possibility (5).

As scientists with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general (5), the United States and 13 other countries (6), and the European Union (7) that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve. We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data. A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest. Public health agencies and research laboratories alike need to open their records to the public. Investigators should document the veracity and provenance of data from which analyses are conducted and conclusions drawn, so that analyses are reproducible by independent experts.

It almost relieving to read those words. Here were the foremost experts in Virology and Epidemiology saying that there needs to be serious consideration taken into investigating the potential of a/an (hopefully) accidental release of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a bioweapons lab. For someone who has been screaming this from the rooftops, it almost felt vindicating. I felt like I needed to thank every one of these scientists personally, for being brave enough to publicly challenge the Chinese government. And, every single leftist needs to read those words and take them to heart.

It’s extremely significant that Dr. Baric is saying that we need to investigate the potential of accidental release, considering how intimately he has been involved in the gain-of-function research that could have led to this pandemic. Certainly, one possibility is that scientists and our government officials (like Fauci) believed that an accidental lab leak occurred or perhaps even had evidence of such a leak, and Baric saw the writing on the wall and wanted to salvage what has been a stellar career to this point and not be thrown under the bus by Fauci. Remember, Fauci was aware that US diplomats had serious concerns about the security of the research happening in Wuhan and did nothing about it.

How embarrassing would it be for Anthony Fauci to have to attempt to explain why he funded this type of research in the first place. Remember, Fauci was the one who authorized the $10 million grant awarded to Dr. Baric which was used to fund the very type of research that could have created SARS-CoV-2.

As Steve Hilton said Thursday night:

He [Fauci] wrote an opinion piece in 2011 just as this kind of research was emerging in the scientific community. He defended it. The language that Dr. Fauci used, he said that “engineering a dangerous virus in the laboratory is a risk worth taking.” He said that.

He’s been the leading world champion of gain-of-function research. He has personally supervised it in the NIAID. He runs that organization…. The money trail is there. The results of the research have been published in scientific papers. And, indeed, the closest known relative to the pandemic virus was in that lab, and that’s where the outbreak started. The evidence is so overwhelming.

It definitely seems that the walls are closing in on Fauci and everyone involved in this research, both before and after the outbreak started. If indeed the virus was accidentally released into the wild and Fauci knew this or highly suspected it, there’s no punishment harsh enough for the harm he’s caused every person on this planet.