A bill H.R.2316 – Fire Fauci Act1 has been introduced into the US Senate to reduce Dr. Anthony Fauci salary along with audit for his correspondence and financial statements linked to COVID-19 outbreak. During the initial days of COVID-19 outbreak, in March 2020, Fauci had said that the masks are not required to be worn by the American public as it doesn’t provide any protection but only prevent infected people from spreading the infection to people who are uninfected. However, recently in May 2021, Fauci made a complete U – turn on his statements saying that people should wear masks and be in home quarantine if detected with COVID-19.
But, the scope of the Bill does not seem to be comprehensive enough. The Congress should have considered to investigate if the tax payer’s money was used to fund gain of function (GOF) research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China to enhance virulence and infectivity of coronavirus which could explain whether the novel coronavirus is man-made in the laboratory. What was the actual purpose of the funding and who eventually stood to gain from this kind of research is the ultimate question that needs to be answered.
There is a background of GOF research being carried out in the laboratory to artificially create pandemic potential pathogens (PPP)2,3. This has been specifically performed on Influenza A/H5N1 virus to enhance its airborne transmissibility4,5. Does it compromise the biosafety and pose a biosecurity risk for the world at large? A workshop was conducted under the aegis of NIH in 2012 where one of discussion question was ‘’are there experiments that should not be done, and if so, why not?’’ And the panellists had commented that any research on the gain of function leading to an unnatural pathogen with high transmissibility and virulence should either not be performed at all or should have sunset provision, i.e., needs to rediscussed at a later point in time about its use and requirement6.
Is the pandemic pathogen SARS CoV-2 artificially created in the laboratory through serial passage in animal models? There is evidence to suggest that GOF research was indeed being carried out in the laboratory to enhance virulence and infectivity of coronavirus7.
Was Anthony Fauci, the man at the helm of affairs at NIH aware of the GOF research being carried out? Answer is in affirmative as evident from the workshop held at NIH8. However, if novel coronavirus is a product of GOF research and what was Fauci’s role in this, if any is unknown. Why an Act is needed to merely freeze salary of a federal employee, let alone firing? There are more pertinent questions to be answered than the proposed legislation seems to address.
- US Congress 2021. H.R.2316 – 117th Congress (2021-2022) -Fire Fauci Act. Available online at https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2316/text
- Broad Institute 2014. New Paradigms: The debate on potential pandemic pathogen creation. Available at https://www.broadinstitute.org/videos/new-paradigms-debate-potential-pandemic-pathogen-creation
- CSER Cambridge 2015. Risks and Benefits of Gain-of-Function Experiments in Potentially Pandemic Pathogens. Available online at https://www.cser.ac.uk/events/risks-and-benefits-of-gain-of-function/
- Herfst S., Schrauwen E., et al 2012. Airborne Transmission of Influenza A/H5N1 Virus Between Ferrets. Science 22 Jun 2012: Vol. 336, Issue 6088, pp. 1534-1541. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1213362
- Imai, M., Watanabe, T., Hatta, M. et al. Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets. Nature 486, 420–428 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10831
- NIH 2012. Panel II: Risks and Concerns Associated with HPAI H5N1 GOF Research. An International Consultative Workshop December 17-18, 2012. Available on https://www.nih.gov/news-events/videos/panel-ii-risks-concerns-associated-hpai-h5n1
- Sirotkin K. and Sirotkin D., 2020. Might SARS-CoV-2 Have Arisen via Serial Passage through an Animal Host or Cell Culture? Bio Essays. First published: 12 August 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/bies.202000091
- NIH 2013. Gain-of-Function Research on HPAI H5N1 Viruses: Welcome and Introductory Remarks. An International Consultative Workshop. Presentation by Anthony Fauci. Available online at https://www.nih.gov/news-events/videos/gain-function-research-hpai-h5n1-viruses-welcome-introductory-remarks