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NIH changes story, confirms it funded Wuhan experiment that made bat coronavirus more dangerous

Key scientist says admission shows that top administrators, including former NIH Director Francis Collins and NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, "lied to Congress, lied to the press, and lied to the public" in denying NIH funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins August 23, 2018.
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Published: October 20, 2021 9:37pm

Updated: March 27, 2023 12:48pm

Two weeks after National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins announced his retirement, his agency has complicated congressional testimony by Collins and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci about alleged gain-of-function virus research sponsored by the U.S.

Both officials have denied approving grants for such research through the EcoHealth Alliance and Wuhan Institute of Virology, but a letter Wednesday from NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak to House Oversight Committee ranking Republican James Comer describes an unforeseen experimental result that calls the denials into question.

The letter shows that "NIH — and specifically, Collins, Fauci, and Tabak — lied to Congress, lied to the press, and lied to the public," Richard Ebright, lab director at Rutgers University's Waskman Institute of Microbiology, tweeted Wednesday night when sharing the letter. "Knowingly. Willfully. Brazenly."

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The final progress report submitted by EcoHealth in August described a "limited experiment" in which a modified bat coronavirus made mice "sicker" than the original virus, Tabak told Comer. "As sometimes occurs in science, this was an unexpected result of the research, as opposed to something that the researchers set out to do."

NIH determined the proposed research didn't meet the standard for "enhanced pathogens of pandemic potential" because it wasn't shown these bat coronaviruses could infect humans. But "out of an abundance of caution" it required EcoHealth to "immediately" report "a one log increase in growth" if it happened, which would trigger a secondary review of the research by NIH.

EcoHealth didn't do that, Tabak wrote, and it now has five days to turn over "any and all unpublished data" from the research to NIH.

The letter repeatedly emphasizes the viruses studied under the EcoHealth grant and "subaward" to the Wuhan lab "could not have become SARS-CoV-2" because the "sequences of the viruses are genetically very distinct."

Reporting last month by The Intercept confirms that EcoHealth violated the NIH grant terms "at least four" times, Ebright tweeted earlier this month.

NIH put out a statement Wednesday on "misinformation" about COVID-19 origins that emphasizes "the virus is likely the result of viral evolution in nature" and not developed as a "biological weapon." It does not mention EcoHealth's violation of grant terms or the creation of a virus that made mice sicker.

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