Throughout this pandemic I've led the effort to hold government accountable.
I've called out the science deniers on the issue of masks and immunity, pushed back against draconian lockdowns that have no scientifically proven benefit and, most recently, asked some very important questions about the origins of a virus that has killed nearly 3.5 million worldwide.
We don't know whether the pandemic started in a lab in Wuhan or evolved naturally. But we should want to know.
During the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on May 11, I specifically asked Dr. Anthony Fauci about the funding of controversial "gain-of-function" research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the potential link between the COVID-19 outbreak and the lab itself.
For those unfamiliar with gain-of-function research, it essentially means juicing up naturally occurring animal viruses in a lab to make them more infectious among humans.
This practice is nothing new. Scientists in the United States have long known how to mutate animal viruses to infect humans. For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the U.S., has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, sharing his discoveries about newly created super-viruses.
Dr. Baric and Dr. Shi worked together to insert bat virus spike protein into the backbone of the deadly SARS virus, and then used the manmade super-virus to infect human airway cells. Their work received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
That sounds like gain-of-function research to anyone with ears to hear.
When faced with this information at the Senate hearing, Dr. Fauci said, "The NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund 'gain-of-function research' in the Wuhan Institute."
However, Dr. Fauci has consistently advocated for funding of gain-of-function research, even promoting it in 2011 in a Washington Post opinion piece, and has since flip-flopped on his comments from May 11.
Despite Dr. Fauci's contradictions, there is ample evidence and backing by the scientific community that the NIH and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, under Fauci's direction, funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Professor Richard Ebright, laboratory director for the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University, has said the application for the NIH funds does meet the definition of gain-of-function. Ebright also said Baric and Shi's "work is far outside the bounds of normal biomedical research."
David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University, noted that this type of research was "highly risky" and brought the possibility that researchers could have made a virus more dangerous for humans.
MIT biologist Kevin Esvelt also noted that certain research methods used at the Wuhan Institute of Virology "seemed to meet the definition of gain-of-function research."
Even outside the scientific community, many have begun to question gain-of-function research, and the origins of COVID-19, in an effort to discern whether anyone was responsible for the pandemic.
As far back as January, Nicholson Baker of New York Magazine began questioning gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the possibility that COVID-19 originated in a lab.
Baker described the technique Dr. Baric developed, which "forces" mutations by serial passage through cell culture so mutations then appear "natural." Baker says, "Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature."
What are the odds of a coronavirus pandemic randomly occurring naturally within miles of a lab that creates a juiced-up coronavirus, and that stores more coronavirus samples than any place in the world?
Government authorities in the U.S., including Dr. Fauci, after unequivocally denying that COVID-19 could have escaped a lab, now conveniently say they are open to the idea of investigating the origins of the virus.
Before they were called out, the original claim that COVID-19 originated in a market in Wuhan was the popular explanation for Dr. Fauci and his friends. But the World Health Organization's initial investigation did not find any animals infected with the coronavirus, meaning there's no proof of animal-to-human transmission at the Wuhan market and other markets nearby.
Dr. Baric, an advocate of gain-of-function research, admits, "The main problem that the [Wuhan] Institute of Virology has is that the outbreak occurred in close proximity to that Institute." When asked, "Can you rule out a laboratory escape?" Dr. Baric said, "The answer in this case is probably not."
Is Dr. Fauci not at all worried that one of these super-viruses could escape a lab or that one of these laboratory viruses actually caused the COVID-19 pandemic?
I certainly am, and as an effort to prevent any laboratory-caused pandemics, I introduced an amendment in the U.S. Senate aimed at banning the NIH and any other U.S. agency from funding gain-of-function research in China. This amendment was adopted by voice vote, ensuring that we no longer will use taxpayer dollars to fund gain-of-function research in China.
The question of whether a pandemic was caused by gain-of-function research in a laboratory should not be one we have to answer.
In light of all of these facts, with over three million people dead and trillions of dollars spent, we still have not fully investigated the origin of COVID-19.
Gain-of-function research and the Wuhan lab should be thoroughly investigated and opened to public scrutiny. We must leave no stone unturned in the search for answers. I will continue to lead the charge in pursuit of the truth.
You can read the Op-Ed HERE.