The EcoHealth Alliance experiments have nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic

Republicans, such as Rep. James Comer, say a letter from a National Institutes of Health official is an admission that the agency funded so-called gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses in China, suggesting the work led to the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican staff of the House Oversight and Reform Committee claim that they were lied to by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, when he denied that the NIH funded gain-of-function research. The Republican staff of the House Oversight and Reform Committee claim that a letter from NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence A. Tabak, responding to an inquiry about a grant awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, was an admission that the agency had funded gain-of-function research. We find these claims are misleading.

Whether “Gain-of-function” research was used by EcoHealth Alliance in this experiment is up for debate. The NIH argues that the EcoHealth Alliance experiments, although they produced a more virulent virus in mice, did not meet that definition, as the bat coronaviruses used in this research have not been shown to infect humans. Concluding that the research led to the COVID-19 pandemic is false. There is no evidence that Fauci knowingly gave false information when asked about the NIH funding of “gain-of-function research” when it comes to the coronavirus. In fact, the letter itself notes that the viruses used in the experiments are “decades removed from SARS-CoV-2 evolutionarily” and that they “could not have been the source of SARS-CoV-2.”

In a statement by Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director, National Institutes of Health addresses the claim.

NIH wants to set the record straight on NIH-supported research to understand naturally occurring bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, funded through a subaward from NIH grantee EcoHealth Alliance. Analysis of published genomic data and other documents from the grantee demonstrate that the naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.