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Fauci claims ‘gain of function’ is ‘completely meaningless term’ as he defends NIH actions


Dr. Anthony Fauci said “gain-of-function,” the term for research to make viruses more dangerous, is a “completely meaningless term” in a new interview.

The octogenarian virologist, who has insisted that the National Institutes of Health he heads never funded such research, tried out his latest tack Thursday night when MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan asked about a September report by the Intercept.

“The Intercept reporting is completely misleading, because ‘gain-of-function’ … is a completely meaningless term unless you put it into context, and what has happened is that years ago we paused all function on manipulating viruses, which is an absolutely essential part of virology, in order to get certain guard rules and guidelines about what constitutes research that in fact might be dangerous and need special oversight,” Fauci said.

Amid the search for the origins of COVID-19, Fauci has been adamant that the NIH did not fund gain-of-function research at a Chinese government lab. But earlier this year, NIH determined that EcoHealth Alliance, which it funds, violated its guidelines when doing risky bat coronavirus experiments in China.

The Intercept reported that the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the nearby Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment, along with EcoHealth Alliance, have engaged in what the U.S. government defines as “‘gain-of-function research of concern,’ intentionally making viruses more pathogenic or transmissible.”

Fauci claims the operating guidelines for what is and is not “gain of function” research have changed and that past research conducted with NIH funding complied with rules in effect at the time.

Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Washington Examiner that Fauci is not telling the truth.

“He is lying,” Ebright said. “Brazenly, and, in this interview, desperately. The term ‘gain-of-function research’ is defined in the federal policy in effect in 2014-2017, and the term ‘enhanced potential pandemic pathogens’ is defined in the federal policy in effect in 2017-present.”

The Department of Health and Human Services defined gain-of-function studies as “research that improves the ability of a pathogen to cause disease, help define the fundamental nature of human-pathogen interactions, thereby enabling assessment of the pandemic potential of emerging infectious agents.”

“The definitions in the policy documents were not ‘nebulous.’ The definitions in the policy documents were clear,” Ebright said.

NIH documents released through FOIA requests show that EcoHealth Alliance and its Wuhan partners created SARS-related coronaviruses that combined the spike gene from one virus with the rest of the genetic information from another, Ebright said. The resulting virus was up to four times as lethal in mice genetically engineered to reflect infection in humans.

Hasan asked Fauci if he had any second thoughts about NIH’s funding or research and cited comments by Columbia University virologist Vincent Racaniello, who previously said, “It’s gain of function. Tony Fauci is wrong saying it’s not.”

“The NIH is totally open that if people have a problem with the guardrails that were put into place by three years of a deliberative process in good faith by people ranging from all areas including the National Academy of Sciences, I’m fine with relooking at it,” Fauci said. “If they feel that those guardrails should be changed, then let’s change them.”

This article was originally published by Washington Examiner. Read the original article.

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