Bipartisan bill seeks to freeze disputed gain-of-function research funding

by mcardinal

Megan Udinski, FISM News


In a bipartisan endeavor, members of Congress are seeking to freeze federal funding towards controversial gain-of-function (GoF) research. The Pausing Enhanced Pandemic Pathogen Research Act, spearheaded by Reps. Mike Gallegher (R-Wis.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), and Henry Cueller (D-Texas), would halt halt taxpayer funding of GoF research for the next five years.

This legislation comes on the heels of a recent report received by The Intercept. After filing a Freedom of Information request from the National Institutes of Health, The Intercept reported that 900 pages of documents received proved that the U.S. was funding bat coronavirus research in Wuhan.

According to the Alliance for Human Research Protection, gain-of-function is the “euphemism for biological research aimed at increasing the virulence and lethality of pathogens and viruses.” 

Many have long held fears regarding the potential of enhanced viruses to accidentally escape a laboratory, or even worse, to be used intentionally for biological warfare. As an example, the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq was initiated under the belief that Iraq was preparing to use anthrax as a weapon of mass destruction. 

Despite these fears, according to a Newsweek article Dr. Anthony Fauci argued last year that “the research was worth the risk it entailed because it enables scientists to make preparations that could be useful if and when a pandemic occurred.” But according to these recent reports, rather than saving lives this problematic research is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused millions of deaths worldwide.

In a press release on Sept. 13 Rep. Gallegher said, “Thanks to documents published by The Intercept, we now know the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Overwhelming evidence suggests that this very research may have caused a deadly pandemic that upended the world.”

The other two Representatives on the legislation, Buddy Carter and Henry Cueller, commented respectively, “We must double down on our efforts to prevent irresponsible research and protect our communities from future pandemics,” and “The Pausing Enhanced Pandemic Pathogen Research Act is the best path forward to ensure that we avoid U.S. taxpayer funds from falling into the wrong hands.”

The actions by Dr. Fauci, NIH, and the WIV have huge ethical ramifications. The use of “human samples both new and archived”, brings to mind the Nuremberg Code which came out after WWII. The second standard listed in the code states, “The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.”

While the scientists involved claim to have humankind’s best interests at heart by hoping to use their research to prevent or be able to respond to an epidemic created by animal-human transmission of viruses, it is clear that their actions were not “for the good of society” and actually took  naturally occurring viruses in animals and created a bridge for transmission to humans.