Dr. Anthony Fauci answers questions during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing to discuss the ongoing federal response to Covid-19 at the U.S. Capitol on May 11.
Greg Nash – Pool via Cnp / Zuma Press
Anthony Fauci’s email correspondence from the early days of the pandemic has sparked a flurry of allegations about masks and the doctor’s fame. But what really matters is that some of the emails raise more questions about the origins of Covid-19.
As director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fauci doubts the theory that Covid-19 came from a laboratory like the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). After ruling this out several times, he publicly said last month that it was possible as the hypothesis was being put to the test in the media and academia.
The emails released following media inquiries about freedom of information show that Dr. Fauci has followed the debates about the development of Covid-19 from the beginning. In early 2020, the immunologist Kristian G. Andersen wrote to him that the virus had some “unusual features” that indicate manipulation in a laboratory environment.
Mr Andersen later published a paper rejecting the laboratory leak theory for lack of evidence. And Dr. Fauci began sharing articles arguing in favor of natural origin while giving advice to scientists writing on the subject. But there is no conclusive evidence of zoonotic origin, and it is reasonable to ask why Dr. Fauci was slow to accept the possibility of a laboratory leak.
Of particular interest: From 2014-19, the National Institutes of Health transferred US $ 3.4 million to the WIV through the non-profit EcoHealth Alliance. “I just wanted to thank you personally on behalf of our employees for standing up publicly and declaring that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin,” enthused the head of the EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, in a partially edited e- Mail from April 2020 to Dr. Fauci. “Your comments are bold and will help dispel the myths surrounding the origins of the virus.”
The NIH money was spent on bat coronavirus research, and it is likely that the WIV conducted some gain-of-function research to make it more deadly or contagious. In an email dated February 2020, Dr. Fauci wrote to his deputy Hugh Auchincloss a paper on gain-of-function research in coronaviruses. “Read this newspaper,” he ordered. “You will have tasks today that need to be done.” His deputy commented on the paper, saying they would “try to see if we have any distant connections to this work abroad”.
Dr. Fauci has since said that his team is not funding gain-of-function research; Funding from the EcoHealth Alliance should be used for sample collection. But “I can’t guarantee everything that goes on in the Wuhan lab, we can’t,” said Dr. Fauci in an interview with NewsNation Now on Wednesday.
Dr. Fauci also said this week that his emails “are really ripe to be taken out of context” and that “you don’t really have the full context”. That could be true. But there is one more reason to examine the US links to WIV and gain-of-function research. The question relates to the origins of Covid, but also to the future risks and benefits of such research.
Current Congress doesn’t seem interested, but President Biden could help by setting up a commission of inquiry like the Robb-Silberman effort into intelligence failures prior to the Iraq war. This should not be a “Fire Fauci” partisan exercise. Understanding where the pandemic came from – and what officials knew and when they knew – can teach valuable lessons and perhaps save lives.
Evidence that the coronavirus may have escaped the Wuhan Institute of Virology is catching up with Fauci and other Wuhan Covid deniers, despite suspicious facts that were evident from the start. Image: Johannes Eisele / AFP via Getty Images
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Published in the print edition of June 4, 2021.