by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
More than a year into this pandemic, congressional Republicans are finally asking the right questions: Why was the scientific community so quick to dismiss the theory that COVID-19 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology? And why haven’t the U.S. officials involved in the lab’s research, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, been pressed about their relationship to it?
There are troubling connections between the United States and Wuhan that need to be examined if we’re to understand fully how this virus came about and spread across the globe. Thankfully, Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, is forcing his colleagues to start digging.
In a letter addressed to Fauci, Gallagher asked the White House medical adviser why the National Institutes of Health, at which Fauci is a top official, provided funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s “gain of function” research on various coronaviruses.
There are a couple of things to understand: “Gain of function” studies are typically conducted to enhance the transmissibility of potential pandemic pathogens. This isn’t abnormal or malicious. Such studies often allow scientists to understand better how contagious viruses spread, infect, and kill human beings.
We know Wuhan’s scientists were conducting this kind of research on various coronavirus strains. Dr. Shi Zhengli, the head of Wuhan’s coronavirus research project, admitted as much in multiple interviews. What this means is that it’s very likely the exact coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2, that has now killed more than 3 million people was enhanced or even created in this lab, thanks in part to the U.S.’s funding.
Again, there is nothing unusual about this. There is, however, a serious problem with the way this research was conducted. Dr. Shi acknowledged that much of her work was conducted at a lower safety level than was required, which should have raised red flags all around, especially among U.S. scientists who knew better.