Is Sen. Rand Paul or Dr. Anthony Fauci correct about Wuhan gain-of-function research funding?
Experts are side with Dr. Anthony Fauci in his debate with Sen. Rand Paul over whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s experiments on bat coronaviruses constituted gain of function research.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and Fauci got into a heated debate about a study in which Chinese scientists replaced spike proteins in bat coronaviruses to learn more about the origins of SARS. Paul interpreted the research, which was partially funded by the National Institute of Health, as proof that Fauci lied before Congress, a charge that the public health expert vigorously refuted.
The trials, according to Robert Garry, a virologist and professor at Tulane University, were designed to see if bat coronaviruses might infect humans. He told This website that they didn’t make the viruses “any better” at infecting individuals, which would be required for gain-of-function studies.
Gain-of-function research includes altering diseases to give them a new feature, such as making viruses more transmissible or hazardous to humans. The researchers started with viruses that could already infect human cells since they could attach to the ACE2 receptor, a protein that acts as the entry point for coronaviruses to infect human cells, according to Dr. Vincent Racaniello, a virologist at Columbia University.
“A gain-of-function would occur if you started with a bat virus that couldn’t infect human cells and then gave it the ability to do so. But that’s not what they did,” Racaniello explained. “It wasn’t given a new address.”
Racaniello’s statement that the studies aren’t gain-of-function since they didn’t give the viruses any new skills, Fauci told This website, is “quite concise and true.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Paul contended that the study constituted gain-of-function since they developed “new, artificial viruses” from animal viruses that could infect people. He referenced an article in which Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University chemistry and chemical biology professor, said the experiment “epitomizes” gain-of-function research.
In May, Ebright told the National Review, “The Wuhan lab used NIH funding to generate novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses capable of infecting human cells and laboratory animals.” This is a condensed version of the information.