Scientist gets big NIAID funding after writing anti-lab-leak paper 'prompted' by Fauci: records

NIAID awards started just two months after publishing of "Proximal Origin" paper, running through fiscal year 2022.

Updated: March 8, 2023 - 3:39pm

A scientist who cowrote a paper dismissing the lab-leak theory for COVID-19, which he said had been "prompted" by Dr. Anthony Fauci, received the first of several large federal grants for his lab just two months after the "Proximal Origin" paper was published, according to existing records brought to national attention Wednesday at a high-profile congressional hearing. 

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, directed by Fauci until this year, has awarded nearly $8 million to a project led by Scripps Research Institute immunologist Kristian Andersen's lab since May 20, 2020.

The awards were hiding in plain sight but the attention at the first hearing of the Republican-led House coronavirus pandemic subcommittee.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) dropped into the hearing late to prompt witness Nicholas Wade, who has held top jobs at Nature, Science and The New York Times, to read from Wade's written testimony that other lawmakers apparently missed.

Wade noted that NIAID awards to Andersen's lab started shortly after Nature Medicine published the paper in March 2020, running through fiscal 2022. (His testimony appears to overstate the total funding.)

Subcommittee Republicans released a memo days earlier citing newly obtained communications with Andersen that undermine his previous claims about Fauci's non-involvement in Proximal Origin and why Andersen suddenly changed his mind that COVID looked "potentially" engineered after a call with Fauci.

They show Andersen told Nature Medicine that Fauci and then-National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins had "prompted" him and other scientists to write the paper.

Prompted by peer reviewers, Andersen confirmed that pangolin coronavirus sequences were not "directly related" to SARS-CoV-2 and did not "refute a lab origin."

Andersen didn't immediately respond to a query about the implication that Fauci rewarded him with grants for writing the paper.

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