Thursday, April 23, 2020

Why Did We Outsource Virus Research to Wuhan, China?

It gets curiouser and curiouser. How did it happen that the United States government was funding research labs in Wuhan, China?

Christina Lin reports in the Asia Times that the U. S. government stopped its own research programs because the Centers for Disease Control was not sufficiently competent to keep these pathogens under strict control.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded bat-coronavirus research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China to the tune of US$3.7 million, a recent article in the British newspaper Daily Mail revealed.

Back in October 2014, the US government had placed a federal moratorium on gain-of-function (GOF) research – altering natural pathogens to make them more deadly and infectious – as a result of rising fears about a possible pandemic caused by an accidental or deliberate release of these genetically engineered monster germs.

This was in part due to lab accidents at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July 2014 that raised questions about biosafety at US high-containment labs. 

At that time, the CDC had closed two labs and halted some biological shipments in the wake of several incidents in which highly pathogenic microbes were mishandled by US government laboratories: an accidental shipment of live anthrax, the discovery of forgotten live smallpox samples and a newly revealed incident in which a dangerous influenza strain was accidentally shipped from the CDC to another lab.

A CDC internal report described how scientists failed to follow proper procedures to ensure samples were inactivated before they left the lab, and also found “multiple other problems” with operating procedures in the anthrax lab. 

As such in October 2014, because of public health concerns, the US government banned all federal funding on efforts to weaponize three viruses – influenza, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

So, who made the decision to oursource the viral research to China? Why, it was none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci:

In the face of a moratorium in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci – the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and currently the leading doctor in the US Coronavirus Task Force – outsourced in 2015 the GOF research to China’s Wuhan lab and licensed the lab to continue receiving US government funding.

Now, of course, American states are suing China, especially the Chinese Communist Party for its role in the coronavirus pandemic. But, what if the virus had originated in an American research project that we outsourced to China? And, what if the American taxpayer was paying for the Chinese research because our government was not overly concerned about what would happen to Chinese people if there had been an accident in a Wuhan lab?

Nonetheless, it is unclear what the legal ramifications would be if the virus was indeed leaked from a Chinese lab, but as a result of a research project that was outsourced and funded by the US government.

Also, if there was a government ban in 2014 on federal funding being used for GOF research, what are the federal compliance and ethical issues surrounding the fact that the NIH still gave federal funding instead of private funding to the Wuhan lab to continue the experiments?

Moreover, could some strains of the coronavirus have originated in US labs, given the fact the US government lifted the ban in December 2017 on GOF research without resolving lab-safety issues?

For now, President Donald Trump’s administration is investigating the $3.7 million in taxpayer money that went to the Wuhan lab, while Republican Representative Matt Gaetz called for an immediate end to NIH funding of Chinese research. Since the federal ban on GOF research has been lifted, US labs can continue creating these monster germs domestically and would no longer need to outsource to China.

Now, however, we are defunding the Chinese lab and are working on these viruses in our own labs. Does that make you feel more safe?


Sam L. said...

"Now, however, we are defunding the Chinese lab and are working on these viruses in our own labs. Does that make you feel more safe?"

Not very damned much!

trigger warning said...

Yes, in fact, it does.

But I begin with a comment to illuminate the typical journalistic hyperexcitable excess, born of ignorance, expressed in the cited article

"The field of virology, and to some extent the broader field of microbiology, widely relies on studies that involve gain or loss of function... Ultimately, GoF studies, which enhance viral yield and immunogenicity, are required for vaccine development. [emphasis added] Molecular methods help with the characterization of antigenic variants, elucidate the biological basis for adverse outcomes associated with vaccine candidates, and determine the basis for attenuation and stability of vaccine candidates." [National Research Council; Institute of Medicine. Potential Risks and Benefits of Gain-of-Function Research: Summary of a Workshop. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Apr 13.]

Now, WRT the question of whether I would prefer it be conducted in the US and not China, my answer is a clear YES. Obviously, when a procedural problem was detected and reported in 2014, the research was publicly paused by the NIH until 2017, when Francis Collins and the NIH determined that

"Research projects that were paused under the moratorium will now be reviewed based on the new framework, and the ones that clear the process will be able to proceed with appropriate risk mitigation measures in place."
---L Schnirring, Center for Infectious Disease & Policy News,12/17.

The NIH did not lie about it, disappear several professionals who were worried, then blame the PLA.

Sam L. said...

That's what the Democrats wanted, and that's what they did. Can't blame it on TRUMP!!!!!1111111111 (though they'll try).