New documents unearthed by The Intercept reveal that the government was funding gain-of-function research to create mutant viruses that would more aggressively infect human beings and storing tens of thousands of viruses in unsafe labs. Dr. Fauci lied to Congress about what we were doing, and our intelligence community seems to have no clue either. Does anyone really doubt the lab-leak theory now?
It was less than two weeks ago that the Director of National Intelligence released a report claiming that we’d never know the origins of coronavirus unless China miraculously cooperated. The report itself was a stunning whitewash, pure government speak complete with torturous phraseology such as “Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered” and opaque references to different intelligence gathering techniques, all while avoiding two important issues. No coronavirus has been found in the wild that could serve as a suitable candidate for the natural origin theory, that of animal to human transfer, likely a bat, but our own government has been funding exactly the sort of gain-of-function research that would create one in a lab and they’ve been funding this research in China, despite repeated denials.
Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Intercept, new information about the research we were funding has come to light and, surprise, surprise, Dr. Fauci and others appear to have been lying to us, including under oath in Congress, all along. The Intercept obtained a veritable treasure trove of documents, some 900 pages overall, detailing the work of the EcoHealth Alliance. EcoHealth Alliance is a third party organization that essentially funnels government money to other third parties, including state parties like China. The group receives grants from the National Institutes of Health, of which Dr. Fauci is a part, and then distributes the funds on the government’s behalf. The Intercept documents include copies of two grant proposals, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence” and one “Understanding Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in Emerging Infectious Disease Hotspots of Southeast Asia,” incredibly this second grant was approved in August 2020 in the midst of the pandemic.
We’ve known for some time that at least $600,000 of funds from these or similar grants have made their way to China, funding the Wuhan Institute and others as late as 2019 when the “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence” grant was cancelled. The dispute in Congress and the mainstream media was over whether or not this research constituted “gain-of-function,” a technical term that generally means making the virus more infectious for humans. Dr. Fauci’s boss, NIH Director Francis Collins vehemently denied that any funds were used for gain of function research, issuing a statement on May 19 “neither NIH nor NIAID have ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research.”
Dr. Fauci himself has appeared before Congress on the matter, under oath, where he infamously clashed with Republican Senator Rand Paul, a medical doctor. In July, Senator Paul informed Dr. Fauci that it was a crime to lie to Congress and asked him if he wanted to retract his earlier statement that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” Dr. Fauci was livid at the accusation, literally shaking in response. “Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress and I do not retract that statement. This paper that you were referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain-of-function.” He proceeded to insist that a fellow doctor had no idea what he was talking about, saying “Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially, you do not know what you are talking about.”
He further claimed that it was “molecularly impossible” for the research to have resulted in the pandemic causing virus, but that was never Senator Paul’s point. The Senator was clear, “No one is alleging that those virus caused the pandemic. What we’re alleging is, the gain-of-function research was going on in that lab and NIH funded it.” Dr. Fauci continued to press on, “And you are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individual [sic]. I totally resent that.” He then said the Senator was lying himself, “If anybody is lying here, Senator, it is you.” At the time, both the NIH and EcoHealth Alliance sided with Dr. Fauci, claiming they funded a project to examine “at the molecular level” bat viruses and their spike proteins, known to help the virus bind to living cells, “without affecting the environment or development or physiological state of the organism.” Perhaps needless to say, the mainstream media quickly sided with Dr. Fauci as well.
The documents uncovered by The Intercept, however, result in a far different picture, making Dr. Fauci’s claims seem more and more like lies with each passing day. “This is a road map to the high-risk research that could have led to the current pandemic,” explained Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right To Know, a group investigating the origins of Covid-19. The roadmap includes specific research on “humanized mice” conducted at another Chinese lab. The goal was to identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to affect humans. The alterations included the creation of novel coronaviruses, a dangerous business acknowledged even by the grant proposal itself, “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled.”
The mice involved in the research had been engineered to better mimic human cells, enabling the scientists to test how the virus might respond to a human host. According to one of the grants, these humanized mice “will be genetically modified to carry human ACE2 or DPP4 gene will be used to evaluate pathogenesis of CoVs.” A specific aim of the grant is to “test predictions of CoV interspecies transition.” This testing was accomplished “experimentally using reverse genetics, pseudovirus and receptor binding assays, and virus infection experiments in cell culture and humanized mice.” The grant notes specifically that they will use “mutant” viruses, “We will do this by sequencing the spike (or other receptor binding/fusion) protein genes from all our bat-CoVs, creating mutants to identify how significantly each would need to evolve to use ACE2, CD26/DPP4 (MERS-CoV receptor) or other potential CoV receptors.”
Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University explains, “The viruses they constructed were tested for their ability to infect mice that were engineered to display human type receptors on their cell.” This is especially important because one of the unique features of the pandemic causing virus is its ability to bind effectively to human cells using the spike protein. This feature was identified by Dr. Christian Andersen and has not been found in nature. In his letter to Nature Medicine, “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” widely referenced as proof of the natural origin theory, Dr. Andersen makes frequent references to the nature of this spike protein.
There are six amino acids that are critical to the ability of the virus to bind to human cells, five of the six are different between the original SARS-CoV and the new SARS-Cov-2. Dr. Andersen notes, “On the basis of structural studies and biochemical experiments, SARS-CoV-2 seems to have an RBD that binds with high affinity to ACE2 from humans, ferrets, cats and other species with high receptor homology,” but then he hedges, claiming that “computational analyses,” unreleased analyses perhaps needless to say, show that the “interaction is not ideal.” From there, he concludes it must have arisen naturally, but the grant request doesn’t say their goal was to develop the highest possible affinity for binding. Instead, they were planning to test natural and mutant viruses for their capacity to bind and they were testing it on mice designed specifically with a human ACE2.
The second grant request obtained by The Intercept is equally instructive, though it was approved after the pandemic started. They were intentionally infecting human cells and mice models, “We will develop and transfer technology to test these viruses’ capacity to infect human cells and mouse models, develop new specific and sensitive serological and molecular diagnostic tools, conduct surveillance of human communities with high risk of exposure to wildlife, and clinical cohorts to identify evidence of spillover of viruses causing previously ‘cryptic’ clinical syndromes in people.” A huge part of this research is collecting samples of every conceivable kind of coronavirus, and determining “how likely viruses are to be able to infect people, and enables evaluation of existing countermeasure technologies.” This included specifically attempting to “sequence, isolate and characterize those viruses…most likely to infect humans.”
How many viruses are we talking about? “We have collected 28,957 samples from bats, rodents and NHPs in Thailand and 47,178 in Malaysia, but have only tested a minority of these using PCR. We have identified 100 novel viruses in Thailand and 77 in Malaysia.” Note these collections occurred prior to this grant, meaning they’ve been collecting and studying these viruses for years.
But that’s not all, of course. Using their “reverse genetics system,” the team “constructed chimeric viruses and rederived full length recombinant SARSr-CoV from in silco sequence,” again note the past tense of the sentence. Incredibly, this chimeric virus did exactly what Dr. Andersen said the pandemic-causing virus was capable of, “SARSr-CoVs with diverse variants of SL-CoV S protein without deletions in their RBD can use human ACE2 as receptor for cell entry.” They continue, “The Barie lab has a well-established hACE2 and DPP4 transgenic mouse model that we used to assess the capacity of novel SARSr-CoVs and MERS-CoV to infect humans and cause disease.” All told, it’s pretty strikingly clear this constitutes gain-of-function research, unless we want to dispute that these chimera viruses, their phrase, aren’t mutations that confer “new or enhanced activity on a protein.”
What are we to make of all this? Before we consider that question, we should be clear: There is no evidence that one of these grant funded viruses is actually the pandemic-causing coronavirus, though fair-minded people should certainly be suspicious, but otherwise we can draw several, largely uncomfortable conclusions.
First, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins are both outright liars or, at the least, seriously misinformed about the work their own organization was funding. I would be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they have been adamant the NIH wasn’t funding any “gain-of-function” research only to have these grants come to light that do everything except flash “gain-of-function” in blinking neon letters. Nor has Dr. Fauci given anyone else the benefit of the doubt. Last year, he was adamant the virus originated naturally, while hiding his relationship with the head of EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Peter Daszak who personally thanked him for pushing the natural origin theory. This year he’s changed his tune and believes it might have come from a lab, but that the US couldn’t possibly have funded the kind of research that might lead to the pandemic. Now, we learn that’s exactly what we were funding and, amazingly, continue to fund. Senator Paul has demanded a Department of Justice investigation into the matter, but it’s doubtful we can expect anything meaningful to result. Lastly, we should not be surprised at any of this: Dr. Fauci has said for the past 10 years at least that this sort of research was worth the risk and has not changed his story.
Second, whether the pandemic-causing virus is the product of intentional engineering, which in mind seems likely given they were engineering viruses that seem suspiciously similar, or not, the research we were funding could well have led to the outbreak. At the least, they were harvesting viruses and testing them for the capacity to infect humans, creating a ready repository in a Chinese lab without the appropriate safety protocols. The Intercept quotes Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute, who claimed these documents show that the lab leak theory should be taken seriously. “In this proposal, they actually point out that they know how risky this work is. They keep talking about people potentially getting bitten — and they kept records of everyone who got bitten,” Chan said. “Does EcoHealth have those records? And if not, how can they possibly rule out a research-related accident?” It’s also evidence by omission: We’ve cataloged tens if not thousands of viruses, and not one of them is a suitable candidate for the natural origin theory.
Third, our vaunted intelligence community apparently knows less than our media. Their recent report contained no new details, identified no new research that could’ve led to the outbreak, indeed said nothing at all. It’s inconceivable that the close to 20 agencies that comprise our intelligence apparatus could come up with nothing new, not even grant applications stored by the government itself, and yet that’s precisely what they claimed. If our government in general is to be believed, the intelligence community is incapable of answering basic questions about the origin of the virus without full cooperation from an adversary, the NIH doesn’t fund research that increases the capacity of a virus to infect humans, except when it does, and we’ll never know the truth anyway, perhaps primarily because our government isn’t to be believed in the first place.