Two House Republicans sent a letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) demanding information on U.S. funding of gain-of-function research, a controversial method of strengthening viruses thought by some to be used at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
GOP Reps. Frank Lucas, Okla., and Mike Waltz, Fla., noted that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) allocated nearly $600,000 to EcoHealth Alliance, which then awarded the funds to study bat coronavirus emergence at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins has said the WIV was told not to use the funds for gain of function research but had no way of knowing whether the lab complied.
“Gain-of-Function research that can increase the contagion or strength of a virus must be very closely monitored,” Lucas said.
The letter also demands to know OSTP’s role in President Biden’s order for the intelligence community to conduct a 90-day review on the origins of Covid-19. The lawmakers request a briefing on OTSP’s role by June 30.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday defended the “modest” collaboration with scientists in Wuhan, saying it would have been “almost a dereliction of our duty if we didn’t study this, and the only way you can study these things is you’ve got to go where the action is,” referencing the early-2000s SARS outbreak, which is presumed to have come from bats in China.
The lawmakers’ request comes just after a bombshell Vanity Fair report found that officials calling for transparency from the Chinese government were told not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s “gain of function” research, because it would bring what the outlet described as “unwelcome” attention of U.S. government funding into that research.
Earlier Thursday GOP Reps. Steve Scalise, R-La., and James Comer, R-Ky., wrote to Democratic leaders on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and House Oversight Committee saying that it is “imperative” that Fauci testify before their respective committees on the origins of the virus, citing the release of thousands of his emails in the early days of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, President Biden released a statement last week revealing that the U.S. intelligence community has “coalesced around two likely scenarios” for the origins of COVID-19, “including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident,” and asked for “additional follow-up.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.