NIH Admits It Funded Gain-of-Function Research on Chinese Bat Coronaviruses


National Institutes of Health Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak informed a leading House Republican lawmaker on Wednesday that the agency funded gain-of-function experiments on bat coronaviruses in China after over a year of denials from the agency’s leadership.

Tabak said that its grantee, EcoHealth Alliance, first notified the NIH in August that it conducted the gain-of-function experiments with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China between June 2018 and May 2019.

Tabak said EcoHealth failed to immediately notify the agency that they created lab-generated chimeric coronaviruses that exhibited a greater than one log or ten times increase in growth.

“EcoHealth failed to report this finding right away, as was required by the terms of the grant,” Tabak said in a letter to Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the House Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member.

“EcoHealth is being notified that they have five days from today to submit to NIH any and all unpublished data from the experiments and work conducted under this award. Additional compliance efforts continue.”

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EcoHealth informed the NIH in the progress report that it created a lab-generated SARS-related coronavirus called rWIV1-SHC-014 S that was more pathogenic towards mice with humanized cells than the natural virus on which it was based.

“Tissue lesion and lymphocytes infiltration can be observed in lung, which is more significant in mice infected with rWIV1-SHC014 S than those infected with rWIV1,” the progress report stated.

“These results suggest that the pathogenicity of SHC014 is higher than other tested bat SARSr-CoVs in transgenic mice that express hACE2.”

Tabak added in his letter that, despite EcoHealth Alliance’s failure to properly report its activities to the NIH, the viruses it studied “could not have been the source of SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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EcoHealth Alliance relayed to the NIH in a previous progress report for the grant submitted in 2020 that it created chimeric SARS-related viruses in a Wuhan lab that exhibited an over 10,000 times higher viral load in humanized mice cells, according to records released in September by The Intercept.

An NIH spokesman told the DCNF in September that it “never approved any research that would make a coronavirus more dangerous to humans.”

The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, approved the EcoHealth Alliance research grant in China, which involved the transfer of $600,000 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Fauci has insisted since the outset of the pandemic in early 2020 that his agency did not fund gain-of-function research in China.

Rutgers University professor Richard Ebright, an outspoken opponent of gain-of-function research, said Wednesday that Tabak’s letter proves the NIH and its top leaders, including Fauci and NIH Director Francis Collins, lied when they claimed they didn’t fund gain-of-function research.

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“The NIH — specifically, Collins, Fauci, and Tabak — lied to Congress, lied to the press, and lied to the public. Knowingly. Willfully. Brazenly,” Ebright tweeted Wednesday.

EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak orchestrated the now-infamous February 2020 letter published in The Lancet medical journal that condemned “conspiracy theories” suggesting COVID-19 doesn’t have a natural origin.

He was also the only American member of the World Health Organization’s first COVID-19 origins investigation that concluded after an investigation in China in early 2021 that it was “extremely unlikely” the virus could have leaked from a Wuhan lab.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has repeatedly accused Fauci of lying about funding such research, expressed vindication Wednesday evening after Comer released Tabak’s letter.

“‘I told you so’ doesn’t even begin to cover it here,” Paul tweeted.

The NIH and EcoHealth Alliance did not return requests for comment.

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