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GOP Sen. Rubio demands Pfizer explain alleged gain-of-function research

"Whether it's gain of function research, or selected structure mutations through directed evolution, ... any effort to make a virus more transmittable and deadlier is careless and dangerous."

Published: January 26, 2023 8:39pm

Updated: January 26, 2023 9:13pm

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday announced that he had demanded Pfizer explain a recent Project Veritas video in which the company's director of research and development appeared to admit that the company had experimented with "direct evolution" research to mutate the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

Earlier this week, investigative outlet Project Veritas published a video that purported to show Pfizer Director of Research and Development, Strategic Operations Jordon Trishton Walker, discussing the possibility of mutating COVID-19 to help develop vaccines for new viruses preemptively.

"One of the things we're exploring is like, why don't we just mutate it [COVID] ourselves so we could create preemptively develop new vaccines, right? So, we have to do that. If we're gonna do that though, there's a risk of like, as you could imagine no one wants to be having a pharma company mutating f**king viruses," Walker says in the footage.

The video prompted considerable outrage among conservatives, who likened the process Walker described to the much-maligned gain-of-function research that seeks to amplify characteristics of certain viruses. Many have pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, known to have been experimenting with coronaviruses, as a potential origin point for the pandemic.

Rubio was quick to condemn the alleged practices of Pfizer, calling it "careless and dangerous."

"Whether it's gain of function research, or selected structure mutations through directed evolution, as Mr. Walker claimed would occur, any effort to make a virus more transmittable and deadlier is careless and dangerous," he said in a press release. "Further, Mr. Walker stated that Pfizer is willing to engage in this dangerous research because COVID and its variants are 'a cash cow' for the company and regulators will go easy on their efforts because a significant percentage of government officials aim to work for Pfizer and other biopharmaceutical companies and do not want to compromise their future job prospects."

In a letter he sent to Pfizer President and CEO Albert Bourla, Rubio demanded that the company explain its future plans, if any, to mutate the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He further asked whether the company intended to carry on with gain-of-function or directed evolution of it to develop new vaccines preemptively. Rubio also asked as to the company's existing safety measures.

The Florida senator further inquired as to any potential interactions between Pfizer, its industry peers, and any government officials about such efforts. 

He lastly inquired if Bourla would commit to halting such research, citing evidence that COVID may have leaked from the Wuhan lab and been amplified because of similar research at that facility.

"As a leader in global public health and development of the COVID vaccine, with American taxpayer dollars, it is critical that Pfizer is accountable for their actions and be transparent with the public on the substance and intent of their research," he concluded.

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