Officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) expressed concern about "gain-of-function" experiments at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2016, according to newly-surfaced government emails.
Watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained 1,651 pages of records from the NIH through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Emails show that NIH officials warned that EcoHealth Alliance could be conducting “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan lab, and there was reportedly an FBI "inquiry" into the concerns.
In an email dated May 22, 2020, Ashley Sanders – a senior investigations officer in the NIH Division of Program Integrity – emailed David A. Miller – an FBI agent from the Newark Field Office. While most of the email is redacted, the subject line includes: "Grant Questions – FBI Inquiry," and a reference to NIH grant award R01AI110964 – “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.”
There were also worries about gain-of-function research at the Wuhan laboratory by officials at the NIAID – which has been led by Dr. Anthony Fauci since 1984.
NIAID program officer Erik Stemmy replied to an email regarding EcoHealth's failure to file a progress report on its bat coronavirus research, "They have proposed work for the next year of the award that may be subject to the gain-of-function funding pause."
Stemmy and NIH chief grants management officer Jenny Greer sent a letter to EcoHealth Alliance chief of staff Aleksei Chmura on May 28, 2016, warning that the NIH grant for the Wuhan bat coronavirus research could be paused.
"Based upon information in the most recent progress report, NIAID has determined that the above referenced grant may include Gain of Function (GoF) research that is subject to the U.S. Government funding pause," the letter states, adding that the violation comes from EcoHealth "testing predictions of CoV inter-species transmission."
In an email to NIH officials dated June 15, 2016, Stemmy notes that the grant awarded to Peter Daszack – the president of EcoHealth Alliance – "may have GoF [gain-of-function] and I’ve been in touch with the GMS [Grants Management Specialist] for a while now.”
In an email dated August 3, 2021, Chmura details EcoHealth research that could be construed as gain-of-function experiments:
To analyze which viruses were a potential public health risk, we managed to cultivate three strains of SARSr-CoVs from bat feces… We used the genetic codes of some of the other viruses we found in bats and inserted spike protein genes of those viruses (the proteins that attach to cells) into the cultured viruses. By doing this experiment we showed that other viruses may also be able to infect human cells, and were able to do this safely without the need to culture large amounts of virus…. This work proves that there is a clear and present danger for future emergence of novel SARS-like viruses in people.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines gain-of-function research as:
Studies, or 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, informing public health and preparedness efforts, and furthering medical countermeasure development.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has consistently and repeatedly denied that there were gain-of-function experiments conducted by EcoHealth – even during congressional testimony when he notably clashed with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)