Blackburn, Marshall, Colleagues Renew Effort to Place Moratorium on Federally-Funded Risky Gain-of-Function Projects

January 26, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.) reintroduced the Viral Gain-of-Function Research Moratorium Act, legislation to place a moratorium on all federal research grants involving risky gain-of-function research on potential pandemic pathogens. A new report from a federal watchdog agency concluded that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) failed to meet key elements of its mandated oversight program responsibility.


Yesterday, Senator Blackburn also introduced legislation to establish an Office of Inspector General within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help restore much-needed accountability to the agency.


“In light of the GAO’s new report, it has become abundantly clear that the NIH is currently incapable of properly enforcing statutorily mandated oversight standards. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that there is no room for negligence in researching potential pandemic pathogens. These projects should not be allowed to continue until oversight is improved and safety guardrails become a guarantee,” said Senator Blackburn. 


“For the past few years, a select group of individuals at NIH and other federal agencies have undermined congressional oversight instead ofbeing transparent or accountable to the American people,” said Senator Marshall. “This has hampered our ability to get to the bottom of the COVID-19 outbreak and gain a full understanding of how much taxpayers are subsidizing these dangerous activities. This new GAO report further bolsters the need to address NIH’s failure in executing its oversight responsibilities of federally-funded research. Until the oversight process is reformed and adequate guidelines are in place to protect all of us from dangerous outbreaks, we must not allow any this research to continue.” 


Joining Blackburn and Marshall’s legislation as original cosponsors are Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).


“American taxpayers should not be funding dangerous gain-of-function projects abroad, like those conducted in the Wuhan Institute ofVirology. It’s our obligation to put a stop to these risky experiments to ensure that these enhanced pandemic pathogens are not accidentally or deliberately released into the world. I’m proud to sign onto this bill calling for an immediate moratorium on federally-funded gain-of-functionresearch projects in hopes that other nations worldwide – like China – will follow suit,” said Senator Braun.


“There is significant evidence that COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which received gain-of-research grants and funding. Similar research programs should not receive any funding until we can confirm where COVID-19 came from, and what can be done to prevent another global crisis,” said Senator Cotton.


“The Communist Chinese Party has worked hard to suppress information about COVID-19, including its origins and how they have used gain-of-function research,” said Senator Lankford. “We must expose this potentially dangerous research and any U.S. involvement to ensure accountability for the American people. I believe we should defund China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and end US support for any high-risk gain-of-function research. We must maintain a watchful eye on the schemes of the communist Chinese government.” 


“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."


“More than three years after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, serious questions remain regarding its origins and possible connection to federally-funded gain of function research in China. The American people deserve to know the truth. 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,” said Senator Rubio.


“The dereliction of oversight duty at the NIH is not only unacceptable, it’s dangerous,” said Senator Tuberville. “The United States should not spend another penny of taxpayer funds on unaccountable gain-of-function research programs that have proven to be a risk to public health. Congress needs to demand transparency and oversight from all of our public health officials, especially for the billions of dollars sent to their agencies over the past few years.”


“Taxpayers should not have to finance research that could lead to another disastrous pandemic,” Senator Wicker said. “It is clear there has been a failure of oversight, and it would be irresponsible to let this work move forward.”


Additionally, the Viral Gain-of-Function Research Moratorium Act was endorsed by the White Coat Waste Project upon introduction.


“We applaud Senator Marshall and his colleagues for their outstanding leadership to ensure taxpayers aren’t forced to bankroll dangerous, wasteful, and widely-opposed gain-of-function animal experiments that probably sparked this pandemic and will cause another if action isn’t taken,” said Justin Goodman, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy for White Coast Waste Project. “As the government watchdog that first exposed taxpayer funding for the Wuhan animal lab, we proudly support the Viral Gain-of-Function Research Moratorium Act. Stop the money. Stop the madness!”


Click here to read the Viral Gain-of-Function Moratorium Act.