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Fauci once argued that dangerous 'gain-of-function' experiments were worth the risk of a pandemic

White House adviser's federal agency sent funding to coronavirus experiments in Wuhan for years.

Published: May 29, 2021 10:10am

Updated: May 29, 2021 9:11pm

White House coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci years ago argued that dangerous "gain-of-function" viral research was worth the risk of a pandemic, a claim that has resurfaced amid intense scrutiny of Fauci's role in funding potentially similar experiments in Wuhan, China for several years.

In the paper, published in mBio in 2012, Fauci wrote about the then-recent federal moratorium on funding gain-of-function experiments, procedures in which virologists increase the pathogenicity and/or transmissibility of a virus to determine its potential for infecting human beings. 

Posing the scenario of a scientist who is conducting such research but who "becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic," Fauci wrote: "Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario — however remote — should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?

"Scientists working in this field might say — as indeed I have said — that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks. It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature, and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky."

Fauci has been the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases for several decades. Renewed scrutiny in recent weeks has been applied to that agency's funding, via a U.S. nonprofit, of coronavirus experiments in Wuhan, China in the years leading up to the pandemic. 

Wuhan is the city in which the Chinese government claimed to have first identified an outbreak of COVID-19 at a wet market just a few miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where the experiments in question had taken place.

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