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Congress Introduces Bipartisan Bill To Defund Gain-Of-Function Research

(Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Republican Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter and Democratic Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar have joined together to introduce the Pausing Enhanced Pandemic Pathogen Research Act, which would halt government funding of “gain-of-function” (GOF) research for the next five years.

GOF research has been at the center of the search for the origin of COVID-19 since it was revealed that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was conducting the dangerous research, which involved genetically altering pathogens to make them more dangerous or infectious to humans, on bat-based coronaviruses in the leadup to the pandemic. Some taxpayer grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) went to the WIV for some of this research, sparking debate over what exactly fits the definition of GOF.

Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has accused National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci of lying about GOF being done at the WIV with NIH funds. A new bombshell report revealed this week that viruses created at the WIV with NIAID funding exhibited viral loads more than 10,000 times higher than their natural counterparts in humanized mice.

“This is something we never should have allowed without proper oversight and safety protocols,” Rep. Carter said. “We knew the dangers of gain-of-function research, but the National Institute of Health and Dr. Fauci continued to fund it in America and overseas.” (RELATED: ANALYSIS: Biden Said He’d Shut Down The Virus. Now The Pandemic Has No End In Sight)

Republicans have taken other steps prior to Friday to cut off funding to the WIV and for gain-of-function research overseas. The bill introduced by Reps. Carter and Cuellar would apply to all forms of GOF research being conducted with U.S. taxpayer funds. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Misled The American Public’ — House Republicans Press Fauci Over Gain-Of-Function Research)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our economic, educational, and public health well-being. As one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the United States needs to prepare and invest in measures that help to prevent any future pandemics,” Rep. Cuellar said. “Gain-of-function research has been directly linked to the spark of the coronavirus pandemic. 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.”

Officials in the Obama administration placed a pause on GOF research funding in 2014, which was then lifted under the Trump administration in 2017. However, non-profit EcoHealth Alliance continued to funnel grants to the WIV during the pause.

A February poll found that a majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents all wanted the White House to cut off funding to the WIV for animal research. The Biden administration has been unable to determine if the coronavirus pandemic leaked from the Wuhan lab, and China has vowed not to cooperate with further inquiries into the matter, instead accusing the United States of leaking the virus.