Fauci: Coronavirus ‘could have been a lab leak’

Fauci defends COVID record in wake of email dump

Reps. Scalise, Comer want unredacted emails from Fauci

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, May 26, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AP) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday distanced himself from a 2020 email thanking him for emphasizing the likely natural origins for the COVID-19 virus over the theory it escaped from a Chinese lab, as Republicans pressed the National Institutes of Health over what they said were the many unanswered questions about the pathogen that devastated the globe.

An executive at EcoHealth Alliance, a federal grantee that funded some research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, offered Dr. Fauci a “personal thank you” in April 2020 for saying the science pointed to a natural origin instead of a lab release. The Wuhan facility is the site of mounting interest as a possible source of the coronavirus.

One of the thousands of emails given to news outlets through freedom of information requests led to accusations that Dr. Fauci was too cozy with the Wuhan lab at the epicenter of investigations into how the virus swept across the central Chinese city before blanketing the world.

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“That’s nonsense,” Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Thursday. “I don’t even see how they get that from that email.”

The doctor said the email was sent to him, not the other way around, and that an animal remains the most likely source of the pandemic, even if he’s now open to the idea it leaked from a Chinese lab.

“I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human, but I keep an absolutely open mind that if there may be other origins of that, there may be another reason, it could have been a lab leak,” he told CNN.

In an email on April 16, 2020, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told Dr. Fauci: “Conspiracy theory gains momentum.” He was referring to the lab-leak theory, but the message is largely redacted.

Dr. Fauci said he doesn’t remember the substance of that email because it is among thousands of messages released to news outlets. He also said the idea that China viewed the virus as a bioweapon is outlandish.

“I don’t remember what’s in that redacted, but the idea, I think, is quite far-fetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered something so that they could kill themselves as well as other people. I think that’s a bit far out,” he told CNN.

Dr. Fauci has been a leading figure in fighting the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., but he angered conservatives after President Trump accused him of doling out shifting advice on masks and other topics as the science evolved in early 2020.

Critics of the doctor, now a medical adviser to President Biden, are crowing over nuggets in the emails given to The Washington Post and BuzzFeed and his willingness to consider the lab-leak theory once derided by many scientists and major news outlets. Republican lawmakers suggested a possible lab leak long ago while Mr. Trump reminded voters where the virus originated.

Mr. Trump reprised his grievances with Dr. Fauci in a statement Thursday, including the doctor’s conservative estimate of how long it would take to manufacture a vaccine. He stressed that grant research in Wuhan began before he took office and called for an investigation into what the U.S. knew about any manipulation of the virus.

“The funding of Wuhan by the U.S. was foolishly started by the Obama administration in 2014 but ended under the Trump administration. When I heard about it, I said ‘no way.’ What did Dr. Fauci know about ‘gain of function’ research, and when did he know it?” Mr. Trump, who is banned from Twitter, said in a formal statement.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and other Republicans were pilloried as conspiracy theorists in 2020 for pointing to the Wuhan lab, but Dr. Fauci and Mr. Biden recently ordered the intelligence community to conduct a 90-day review of the origin of the virus.

Mr. Biden said he found an earlier investigation unsatisfactory and put the onus on Mr. Trump. He said his predecessor was too deferential to Chinese President Xi Jinping as he pursued a bilateral trade deal in the early days of the pandemic.

Capitol Hill Republicans, meanwhile, are demanding an investigation into U.S. support of the Wuhan lab that was filtered through EcoHealth Alliance funding.

“We renew our request that you immediately convene hearings to examine the origins of COVID-19, the possibility that it leaked from a [communist China]-controlled laboratory, and any involvement of U.S. taxpayer funds,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican and ranking member on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, wrote to House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat. “It is now imperative that Dr. Fauci come before our committees to provide information related to the origins of the novel coronavirus as well as the U.S. government’s role in funding research that may have contributed to the development of the novel coronavirus.”

They also said they want to see unredacted versions of Dr. Fauci‘s emails.

Dr. Collins defended the grant in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this week. He said the Wuhan lab’s share was a “tiny fraction” of funding given to EcoHealth.

“We require annual reports to see whether that, in fact, is what they have been doing. And we trust the grantee to be honest and not deceptive. The grant funds that went to Wuhan, which were a subcontract from EcoHealth, were very specifically aimed to try to categorize viruses that they could isolate from bats in Chinese caves, which we had a good reason to want to know more about, given SARS [in 2003] and MERS that had come out of there,” he told Mr. Hewitt. “We had no control over what else they were doing with those funds. That’s another thing we’d like to know more about, and an investigation might potentially tell us.”

Others have accused Dr. Fauci of flip-flopping after telling National Geographic last year that he saw no evidence of a lab release of the virus.

“I believe if you look historically, what happens in the animal-human interface, that in fact the more likelihood is that you’re dealing with a jump of species,” Dr. Fauci said Thursday. “But I keep an open mind all the time. And that’s the reason why I have been public that we should continue to look for the origin.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state said late Wednesday that Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee plan to press Dr. Fauci and the NIH for more answers.

“We must learn how the COVID-19 pandemic started and where it came from so that we can respond and be prepared for the world’s next pandemic,” Ms. Rodgers said. “NIH must be more forthcoming with information they currently have.”

Ms. Rodgers highlighted a message from immunology and microbiology expert Kristian Andersen, who wrote to Dr. Fauci in January 2020 saying the virus “looked engineered” and was “inconsistent with expectations from the evolutionary theory.”

But by March 2020, Dr. Andersen and his colleagues wrote in Nature Medicine: “Our analyses clearly show that [COVID-19] is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

“As I have said many times, we seriously considered a lab leak a possibility. However, significant new data, extensive analyses, and many discussions led to the conclusions in our paper,” Dr. Andersen tweeted Tuesday. “What the email [to Dr. Fauci] shows is a clear example of the scientific process.”

White House officials expressed support of Dr. Fauci on Thursday and said they would let him speak about his emails.

“He’s been an undeniable asset in our country’s pandemic response,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Rand Paul: Fauci hiding past work on ‘super-viruses that jump from animals to humans’

Fauci is hiding past work on ‘super-viruses that jump from animals to humans,’ Rand Paul claims

Republican says infectious disease expert 'supported NIH funds for all these labs!'

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via … more >

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By Douglas Ernst

The Washington Times

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Rhetorical fireworks ensued yet again on Tuesday when Sen. Rand Paul faced off with Dr. Anthony Fauci over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kentucky Republican, who has sparred with the infectious disease expert numerous times at Senate hearings, used the latest discussion to examine the extent of U.S. involvement with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“To arrive at the truth, the U.S. government should admit that the Wuhan Virology Institute was experimenting to enhance the coronavirus’s ability to infect humans,” Mr. Paul said.

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Fauci is hiding past work on 'super-viruses that jump from animals to humans,' Rand Paul claims

Dr Fauci dissembled or tried to hide his long time support for ‘gain-of-function’ research which creates super-viruses that jump from animals to humans.

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 11, 2021

The senator urged more transparency pertaining to the “juicing up” of “super viruses” in the lab for research purposes, which echoes claims by Dr. Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Mr. Redfield told CNN in March that COVID-19’s efficiency doesn’t make “biological sense” for a naturally occurring virus. Instead, he said it behaves like lab-made viruses “[that scientists] grow better and better and better and better and better and better so we can do experiments and figure out about it.”

“Scientists in the U.S. have long known how to mutate animal viruses to infect humans. Do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?” asked Mr. Paul, who is a medical doctor, albeit an ophthalmologist, not an epidemiologist.

Mr. Paul‘s premise was rejected by the NIAID director.

“With all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute,” Dr. Fauci said.

The debate then spilled over onto Twitter.

“Dr. Fauci dissembled or tried to hide his long-time support for ‘gain-of-function’ research which creates super-viruses that jump from animals to humans,’ Mr. Paul tweeted. “[Eleven] labs in the U.S. create these super-viruses in the U.S. and one of them collaborated with Wuhan Virology Inst — Fauci has supported NIH funds for all these labs!”

Watch my exchange with Dr. Fauci in today’s HELP Hearing. https://t.co/2oeDvD3bz1

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 11, 2021

China says US has ordered it to close Houston consulate in what it calls a provocation that violates

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NIH identify genomic features differentiating novel coronavirus from other animal-derived viruses

NIH identify genomic features differentiating novel coronavirus from other animal-derived viruses

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This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus … more >

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By Shen Wu Tan

The Washington Times

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Researchers have pinpointed genomic characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease, from other coronaviruses that cause less severe diseases, according to a statement Thursday by the National Institutes of Health.

By comparing the genome of SARS-CoV-2 virus to other coronaviruses, the researchers identified protein features that are unique to SARS-CoV-2 and two other coronaviruses strains with high fatality rates, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

“This research could be a crucial step in helping scientists develop approaches to predict, by genome analysis alone, the severity of future coronavirus disease outbreaks and detect animal coronaviruses that have the potential to infect humans,” says an NIH press release.

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The genomic features include insertions of certain stretches of amino acids into two virus proteins called the nucleocapsid and the spike. They are found in all three of these higher fatality coronaviruses and their closest relatives that infect animals such as bats and correspond to the virus’ ability to jump from animals to humans. The protein features are not found in four other human coronaviruses that cause non-fatal disease.

Finding the insertions in the spike protein, which could help recognize coronavirus receptors on human cells and when they penetrate into these cells, in animal coronavirus isolates could help predict the transmission to humans and the severity of disease, the NIH statement says.

“This innovative research is critical to improve researchers’ understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and aid in the response to COVID-19,” said Patricia Flatley Brennan, NIH’s National Library of Medicine director. “Predictions made through this analysis can inform possible targets for diagnostics and interventions.”

COVID-19 has infected more than 7 million people and killed more than 410,000 globally as of Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.

Health experts estimate that COVID-19 has a fatality rate of about 3%. Officials say SARS has a case-fatality rate of about 15% while MERS has an estimated mortality rate of 35%.

Potential vaccine shown to protect monkeys from coronavirus

Potential vaccine shown to protect monkeys from coronavirus

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In this Wednesday, April 8, 2020 photo provided by the Center for Pharmaceutical Research, a pharmacy technologist using a biosafety level 2 hood prepares a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine candidate for testing in Kansas City, Mo. This early safety study, called … more >

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By Shen Wu Tan

The Washington Times

Friday, May 15, 2020

A potential vaccine has proven to protect monkeys from pneumonia caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the National Institutes of Health and University of Oxford.

The results have not been peer-reviewed, but a phase one trial began April 23 in healthy volunteers in the United Kingdom.

The pharmaceutical industry and health officials around the world are racing to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. President Trump said Friday that he enlisting the government, manufacturers and the military to secure a vaccine before the end of the year in his campaign, called “Operation Warp Speed.”

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The vaccine was developed at the University of Oxford Jenner Institute. Oxford has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for the further development, large-scale manufacturing and possible distribution of the vaccine.

In the study, six rhesus macaques were injected with a single dose of the vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 28 days before being infected with SARS-CoV-2 and compared to three control animals that did not receive the vaccine. The vaccinated animals showed no signs of virus replication in the lungs, significantly lower levels of respiratory disease and no lung damage compared to the control animals, NIH said Friday.

The researchers posted their data to the preprint server bioRxiv. The data can be found here.

The vaccine uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee adenovirus to deliver a SARS-CoV-2 protein to induce a protective immune response. ChAdOx1 has been used to develop investigational vaccines against several pathogens, including the coronavirus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

The scientists adjusted the platform to SARS-CoV-2 when the first cases of COVID-19 appeared. The vaccine rapidly induced immune responses against SARS-CoV-2 in mice and rhesus macaques. The research team then tested the vaccine’s effectiveness on the macaques at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana.

Ex-Cleveland Clinic employee charged with hiding China ties to collect taxpayer-funded grants

Feds charge researcher with hiding China ties to collect taxpayer-funded grants

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The Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington is photographed early in the morning on May 14, 2013. (Associated Press) **FILE** more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Federal prosecutors Thursday charged a former Cleveland Clinic employee with fraud, saying he lied about his ties to a Chinese university while collecting more than $3.6 million in taxpayer-funded grants.

The charges against Qing Wang come as the Justice Department continues to crack down on Chinese efforts to pilfer American research and technology.

Dr. Wang is charged with false claims and wire fraud.

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Dr. Wang, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen who specializes in genetics and cardiovascular research, has worked at the distinguished Cleveland Clinic since 1997.

Prosecutors said Dr. Wang accepted grants from the National Institutes of Health while concealing that he was the dean of the College of Life Sciences and Technology at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

Dr. Wang also received funds from the National Natural Science Foundation of China for the same research the NIH was funding, prosecutors said.

The alleged misstatements led NIH to approve and fund grants Dr. Wang would not otherwise have been eligible to receive, according to the criminal complaint.

“Dr. Wang deliberately failed to disclose his Chinese grants and foreign positions and even engaged in a pervasive pattern of fraud to avoid criminal culpability,” said Eric Smith, head of the FBI’s Cleveland office.

Prosecutors also allege that Dr. Wang was a participant in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, a controversial program that recruits overseas researchers to boost the country’s science and technology.

The Trump administration has long accused the Thousand Talents Plan of being a veiled effort to pilfer U.S. technology.

Dr. Wang’s participation in the Thousand Talents program resulted in China providing $3 million in research support to enhance his facilities at the Chinese university, prosecutors said. He also received free travel and lodging, including a three-bedroom apartment on campus for his personal use, because of his involvement in the Thousand Talents program, prosecutors said.

The Cleveland Clinic said that it had fired Dr. Wang after it was revealed he allegedly hid his ties to China.

Cleveland Clinic has cooperated fully with the NIH and with federal law enforcement as they conducted their own investigations into these same subjects and will continue to do so,” it said in a statement.