Blackburn, Marshall, Colleagues Introduce Legislation To Halt Viral Gain Of Function Research
October 19, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) along with Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.) led a group of colleagues in introducing the Viral Gain of Function Research Moratorium Act to place a moratorium on all federal research grants to universities and other organizations conducting gain-of-function research and risky research on potential pandemic pathogens. This legislation is in response to the congressional inquiries and various media investigations revealing national security issues including federal agencies authorizing dangerous research with certain foreign entities that may have contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Original cosigners of this legislation are Senators Rand Paul M.D., (R-Ky.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Tommy Tuberville (R- Ala.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
“The Biden administration dropped the ball in determining the origins of COVID-19. Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor, Anthony Fauci, has been a leading advocate for deadly gain-of-function (GoF) research, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology received American taxpayer dollars to fund GoF research on his watch. We must halt GoF research until we can determine the necessary safety guardrails,” said Senator Blackburn.
“It’s outrageous that a comprehensive global investigation on the origins of COVID-19 has still not been carried out, and with mounting evidence pointing towards the labs in Wuhan, additional guardrails on gain-of-function research must be established to make sure nothing like this ever happens again,” said Senator Marshall. “For the last decade, Dr. Fauci has funded gain-of-function research on SARS viruses, and until we get to the bottom of the origins of COVID-19, the federal government should not provide another dime in funding for viral gain-of-function research in the name of global health.”
“While Communist China continues to keep the American people and the world in the dark about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wuhan lab-linked organizations like EcoHealth Alliance are failing to tell the truth about U.S. taxpayer money being doled out to fund their dangerous studies on coronaviruses,” said Senator Ernst. “This important effort will block Iowans’ hard-earned tax dollars from funding viral gain-of-function research—and help prevent another pandemic from ever happening again.”
“Even as Dr. Fauci denies it, there is strong evidence COVID-19 started in a lab in Wuhan," said Dr. Paul. "However, if we have learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that risky virus enhancing research - like the type conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, also funded by the U.S. government - is an unnecessary form of science that could lead to the death of millions of people. The Viral Gain of Function Research Moratorium Act puts a stop to federal research grants to universities and organizations that participate in this type of research, ensuring that taxpayer money will no longer be used to fund deadly manmade viruses."
“Communist China has worked hard to suppress information about COVID-19, including its origins and the role of gain-of-function research in its development,” said Senator Lankford. “This potentially dangerous research and any US involvement in it needs to be fully exposed. I will continue to advocate for defunding China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and ending US support for any high-risk gain-of-function research. As we put Americans’ safety and health first, we must continue to keep a watchful eye on the plans and tasks of the communist Chinese government.”
“I’ve long said that identifying the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is vital for preventing future pandemics. The moratorium on gain-of-function research will allow more time to understand how gain-of-function research may have played a role in catalyzing the pandemic, while ensuring that no additional gain-of-function research is being conducted or posing risk of future pandemic. Additionally, this moratorium will ensure that American taxpayers will not be funding foreign research projects, like those conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” said Senator Braun.
“More than a year and half after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, serious questions remain regarding the origins of this deadly virus and its possible connection to federally-funded gain of function research in China,” said Senator Rubio. “The American people deserve to know the truth, and until a full and transparent investigation is guaranteed and real oversight is imposed on this risky line of research, no taxpayer dollars should be squandered by unelected bureaucrats operating in the dark.”
“American lives and livelihoods have been lost due to COVID-19, and we need answers about any link between gain-of-function research and the origins of the pandemic,” said Senator Tuberville. “The Chinese government won’t tell the full story, and Dr. Fauci takes every opportunity to tout the importance of gain-of-function research. Until the truth has been brought to light, Alabamians’ hard-earned tax-payer dollars should not be used to fund any research that seeks to threaten the health and safety of our nation.”
“Significant evidence suggests that COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which received gain-of-function research grants and funding. Until the origin of this virus can be confirmed, funding for similar research programs should be halted to help prevent another global crisis,” said Senator Cotton.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has historically applied a broad and inconsistent definition of gain-of-function (GoF) research – a process that aims to genetically alter a virus or organism to gain (or lose) function on its transmissibility or pathogenicity. However, viral GoF on infectious diseases places great risk to global health as it directly aims to alter viruses deadly to people. Recognizing the threat of GoF research and biosecurity issues in lab facilities, White House officials placed a moratorium on this work in 2014. Unfortunately, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, continued funding GoF research under exceptions to the moratorium. In 2017 – with key cabinet appointments vacant or pending Senate confirmation – NIH successfully advocated for the lifting of the moratorium.
The majority of the funded research in question involves EcoHealth Alliance. A non-profit organization based in New York, their GoF projects involved researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Wuhan University, and the China’s CDC and Prevention of Guangdong Province. In addition to the NIH, other federal agencies involved in this type of risky research include the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In fact, the DoD provided over $40 million in funding to the EcoHealth Alliance to conduct risky research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology with no transparency and no accountability.
Senators Blackburn and Marshall have been actively involved in uncovering the origin of COVID-19, but certain agencies have refused to cooperate fully. Last month, Senator Blackburn – along with Senators Chuck Grassley and Roger Marshall – sent a follow-up letter demanding answers to questions that may shed light on the origins of COVID-19. Specifically, the Senators requested answers regarding NIH’s data retention policies for the Sequence Read Archive, the largest public database for DNA sequencing data. NIH had deleted coronavirus gene sequences data from the database at the request of researchers from Wuhan University. The exchange between the Senators and NIH was reported on by the Wall Street Journal.