A file photo of US NIAID director Anthony Fauci. | Photo: Bloomberg/Sarah Silbiger
A file photo of US NIAID director Anthony Fauci. | Photo: Bloomberg | Sarah Silbiger
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New Delhi: Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden, defended Chinese scientists during questioning from Republican Senator John Kennedy last week.

During the Senate hearing on 26 May, Kennedy asked Fauci, who serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whether the scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) might have lied about conducting “gain-of-function” research.

The gain-of-function research artificially enhances the virus’s contagiousness by altering its genotypes.

Kennedy’s question came after reports about the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) $3.7 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit based in New York. The WIV was granted a subgrant from this larger contract and was conducting research into coronaviruses, sparking the hypothesis that the SARS-CoV-2 leaked from the lab.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is one of the centres that make up the NIH.

Fauci said, “We’ve seen the results of experiments that were done that were published, and that the viruses that they studied are on public databases now. All of that is on public data bases now, and none of that was gain-of-function research.”

Kennedy retorted by asking how he would know if the WIV conducted research or not, to which Fauci said, “There is no way of guaranteeing that. But in our experience with grantees, including Chinese grantees…they are very competent scientists that you would expect would bide by the conditions of the grant, which they have done in the years that we have had interactions with them.”

Republican lawmakers are demanding Fauci’s resignation over what they say is a shift in his position on whether the US government funded research at WIV.

Fauci, who said he believes it’s most likely that the virus originated from a “natural occurrence”, has supported the idea of investigating the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.


Also read: What scientists now say on Covid origin in Wuhan lab and what they dismissed prematurely


‘We generally always trust the grantee’

Kennedy also asked if the scientists at WIV might have been influenced by the Communist Party of China to conduct the gain-of-function research.

“I don’t have enough insight into the Communist Party of China to know the interactions between them and the scientists, sir,” Fauci replied, adding, “We generally always trust the grantee to do what they say.”

Asked why the NIH was funding research into coronaviruses, Fauci said that the SARS-CoV-1 had originated from a province in China and that it went from a bat to a civet cat to humans.
“If you want to show and study, importantly, the animal-human interface, you have to be where the bats are.”


Also read: Find the origin of Covid or face another pandemic, top US experts warn


On WHO and prior investigations

Kennedy also asked if Fauci would agree that if China’s President Xi Jinping was turned “upside-down” and shaken, that “the World Health Organization would fall out of his pocket.”

Fauci, in response, laughed and said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was “a person of high degree of integrity.”

Kennedy also accused the US State Department of “spiking” the Trump administration’s investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, to which Fauci clarified, “That has nothing to do with the National Institutes of Health.”


Also read: Wondering how a killer virus can possibly leak out of a secure lab? This is how


 

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