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Moral And Bio Hazards

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn't stop to think whether they should.”

I wanted to take a second and further expound upon the scientific nitty-gritty of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Grant Notice for EcoHealth Alliance made public by the Intercept Monday.

Over the span of five years, Fauci’s department within the National Institutes of Health, transferred more than $3 million to EcoHealth Alliance, including $600,000 for the Wuhan Institute of Virology, for research on bat-borne coronaviruses and other respiratory pathogens in China. While NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and the NIH have maintained that the NIH was not funding controversial gain-of-function research, where viruses are genetically altered or tampered with in laboratory settings to make the virus more transmissible or dangerous to humans, some in the scientific community are pushing back against this claim, given the contents of the Intercept’s recently released documents.

I’ve already discussed how these new documents elucidate the incompetence of our technocratic elites—just the latest in a steady stream of events that suggest our alleged moral and intellectual betters haven’t the slightest idea of what they’re doing. But, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the science that was carried out using U.S. taxpayer dollars.

In the more than 900 pages obtained by the Intercept through Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, it shows that grant money was used to create novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses. EcoHealth Alliance combined a spike gene from one coronavirus with genetic information from another, which researchers found had the capacity to infect human cells. The research team also found three of these lab-concocted SARS-related coronaviruses had viral loads that were 10 to 10,000 times higher in humanized mice relative to that of the bat-borne viruses used to make them. At least one of these manufactured SARS-related coronaviruses, which had not been publicly disclosed prior to the release of these documents, demonstrated enhanced pathogenicity in humanized mice compared to the bat-borne virus used to create it.

As Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) told John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) in Jurassic Park, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think whether they should.” (what can I say, as a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist).

I’ve chuckled at the thought of that quote over the course of my review of these documents because, to me (a layman), what EcoHealth engages in seems like the very definition of gain-of-function research. But, I’m not alone. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University told me that EcoHealth’s experiments fit the definition of gain-of-function research both during and after the three-year federal moratorium. “The documents released this week show–unequivocally–that the 2014 and 2019 NIH grants to EcoHealth with subcontracts to WIV funded gain-of-function research as defined in federal policies in effect in 2014-2017 and potential pandemic pathogen enhancement as defined in federal policies in effect in 2017-present,” Ebright said.

After the gain-of-function moratorium was lifted, the NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted the Potential Pandemic Pathogens Control and Oversight (P3CO) Framework to review any experimental activities that could be considered gain-of-function research.

But, this process is riddled with problems of its own. Ebright said, “The P3CO Framework relies on NIAID and NIH to identify research proposals that include potential pandemic pathogen enhancement and to forward the identified proposals for a HHS-Secretary-level risk-benefit assessment,” which is something an NIH spokesperson acknowledged themselves in a report published by the Daily Caller News Foundation. Furthermore, most of the P3CO deliberations take place behind closed doors, as previously pointed out by Harvard Professor of Epidemiology Marc Lipsitch.

“Anthony Fauci, and the NIH Director, Francis Collins, have failed, across the board, to identify and forward proposals for review, thereby effectively nullifying the P3CO Framework.”

The moral hazard apparent in these activities is strikingly obvious. The NIH and NIAID have a vested interest in making sure the United States is on the cutting-edge of medical and scientific advancement, and appropriate grant money—for better and for worse—to parties like EcoHealth to accomplish that goal. To delegate itself the authority to trigger a self-audit is lunacy to anyone who wants to see these unelected bureaucrats actually held accountable for engaging in risky research. The technocrats know this; they aren’t stupid (politically, at least). The whole point of preserving their authority to redefine terms and alter or create bureaucratic procedures to suit their own fancy is to eschew all responsibility, even if their actions created the preconditions for a global pandemic.

about the author

Bradley Devlin is a Staff Reporter for The American Conservative. Previously, he was an Analysis Reporter for the Daily Caller, and has been published in the Daily Wire and the Daily Signal, among other publications that don't include the word "Daily." He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bradleydevlin.

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