GOP senators issue second demand for NIH materials on gain-of-function research

Letter slams NIH chief Francis Collins for "unacceptable" earlier response.
Rand Paul

Insisting they have been wrongly shunned, Congressional Republicans are renewing their demands for information on the National Institutes of Health's funding of and participation in gain-of-function research in the years leading up to the COVID crisis. 

In the letter, dated Thursday and addressed to NIH Director Francis Collins, seven Republican senators—including Ron Johnson and Rand Paul—as well as Rep. Mike Gallagher, criticize the director for his "unacceptable" response to an earlier, similar letter. 

The earlier letter "included 17 requests for documents and information on the 2014 gain of function moratorium," the politicians write. But "rather than provide detailed responses to each request, NIH only offered a summary about the gain of function research moratorium and its review process for such research."

"NIH’s lack of response to the May 20 letter shows a complete disregard for congressional oversight and transparency," the letter continues. "Congress and the American people have a right to know the complete truth about NIH’s role in funding potentially risky gain of function research."

The letter makes several additional requests for information and documentation from the NIH in addition to restating the earlier requests. 

Gain-of-function research involves experiments in which scientists increase the transmissibility and/or pathogenicity of a virus in order to study its potential for infecting human hosts. 

In the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funding flowed to a high-level coronavirus lab in Wuhan, China, that was performing experiments on coronaviruses that some critics have classified as gain-of-function. The Wuhan lab sits just several miles from the first known outbreak of COVID-19.