EXCLUSIVE: Republicans Demand Answers About Two Accidents Involving Dangerous Gain-Of-Function Research In Wisconsin

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The entire Republican Wisconsin congressional delegation, led by Rep. Mike Gallagher, are demanding that two federal agencies provide information about two accidents in a lab conducting gain-of-function research.

A University of Wisconsin lab, directed by virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, was the site of two potential leaks of the H5N1 bird flu, according to an excerpt from the upcoming book “Pandora’s Gamble: Lab Leaks, Pandemics, and a World at Risk,” by Alison Young. Scientists in the lab conducted experiments designed to make the bird flu more transmissible to humans. In 2013, a scientist pierced their finger with a needle covered in the engineered H5N1 virus, Young reported, while in 2019 a trainee’s respirator hose became detached, causing the scientist to breathe in infected air.

The University of Wisconsin did not immediately notify the National Institute of Health or the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of either breach. The school also allowed the scientists in question to quarantine at home, rather than in a dedicated facility, in violation of federal guidelines. Neither scientist reportedly became ill.

“One of the many impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had is an increasing awareness of gain-of-function research—scientific research that deliberately enhances pathogens like SARS or influenza in a lab in an effort to better understand and combat them,” the Republicans write to National Institutes of Health Director Lawrence Tabak and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, in a letter obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller.

They are demanding that the two agencies provide information about the University of Wisconsin’s compliance with the Department of Health and Human Services’ P3CO framework, which regulates gain-of-function research. The Republicans are also requesting information about other labs that receive federal funding and conduct similar viral experiments. (RELATED: GOP Senators Review US Government’s Funding, Promotion Of Research That May Have Created COVID-19)

Read the letter here:

04.25.23 Gallagher Johnson Et Al Letter to HHS on UW GOF Lab Incident by Michael Ginsberg on Scribd

“The NIH has an obligation to enforce the strictest safety standards on any lab that engages in risky research. The reported incident at UW-Madison raises questions about NIH’s basic processes for oversight and transparency at these labs and underscores why no lab should be engaging in gain-of-function research in the first place. The NIH needs to immediately address these concerns and outline steps they’ve taken to ensure that the confusion seen at UW-Madison never happens again,” Gallagher said in a statement to the Daily Caller.

Multiple federal agencies have concluded, with varying degrees of certainty, that a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) caused the COVID-19 pandemic. A report from Senate Republicans alleged that the virus leaked at least twice from the lab, where scientists made bat-based coronaviruses more transmissible. Architects and scientists reportedly cut corners in building WIV, leading to the breach.