EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth article in our ‘Gain-of-Function Hall of Shame’ series profiling key players in gain-of-function research.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is a medical doctor who has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. He’s best known in his current role as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans put their faith in Fauci. His bedside manner―straightforward, modest and unassuming―made it easy to warm up to this grandfatherly nerd. Inspiring trust that he was unbiased, non-partisan and strictly scientific, he quickly became “America’s Favorite Doctor.”
With two in three Americans (68%) saying they trust him in a September 2020 poll, Fauci is still considered to be a more reliable source information than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (67%), Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force (53%), Joe Biden (52%) and President Trump (40%).
For Democrats, especially, Fauci is a sacred cow; their reverence for him has grown to 86 percent, up from 76 percent in April. Among Republicans, though, his support has slipped to 48 percent.
But, the ease with which Fauci manages to make Trump look bad, while seemingly taking pains not to do so, clearly adds to his charm for Democrats while arousing the suspicions of Republicans.
Really, there’s no reason why the search for the truth about the origin of COVID-19 should be a political issue.
Here are 6 reasons why we should all question our faith in Fauci.
1. Fauci militarized infectious disease research post-9/11
Nevertheless, at NIAID post-9/11, Fauci chose to make this problem worse by directing a massive surge in biodefense research and the proliferation of high-containment (high-risk) labs.
This was hugely unpopular among scientists.
More than 750 of the 1,143 scientists then in receipt of funding from the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH)―including the president elect of the American Society for Microbiology and seven past ASM presidents―published an open letter complaining that the move threatened the very foundation of microbiology.
As “Science” reported (“Has Biodefense Gone Overboard?” March 4, 2005), Fauci was undeterred by the criticism. He boasted that without his lobbying, Congress would have given the $1.5 billion boost to NIAID’s annual budget to the Department of Homeland Security or the Pentagon. He insisted that the biodefense research spending came on top of NIAID’s existing budget rather than at the expense of other priorities.
The scientists demonstrated in their letter that Fauci’s claim was false. The number of grants to study prioritized bioweapons agents increased by 1500% (from 33 in 1996-2000 to 497 in 2001-Jan 2005), while over the same period the number of grants awarded to study non-biodefense-related model microorganisms decreased by 41% (from 490 to 289) and the number of grants to study non-biodefense-related pathogenic microorganisms decreased by 27% (from 627 to 457).
Fauci institutionalized NIAID’s shift from research on common infectious diseases to pathogens that could be used in biowarfare by securing funding for the construction of several new high-containment laboratories including four biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) labs: the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland, the NIAID Rocky Mountain laboratory in Hamilton, Montana and two National Biocontainment Laboratories at Boston University, in Boston, Massachusetts and the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, as well as 13 BSL-3 regional biocontainment laboratories.
Thanks to Fauci, by 2015, there were 200 U.S. biolabs conducting risky research on dangerous pathogens.
2. Fauci’s biodefense investments increased the risk of a pandemic
Predictably, there have been accidents. As reported in a “USA Today” investigative series (“Inside America's secretive biolabs,” May 28, 2015):
“From 2006 through 2013, labs notified federal regulators of about 1,500 incidents with select agent pathogens and, in more than 800 cases, workers received medical treatment or evaluation, limited public data in program annual reports show. Fifteen people contracted laboratory-acquired infections and there were three unintended infections of animals, according to the reports, which do not identify labs and mostly provide aggregated counts of incidents by type. Reported incidents involve events ranging from spills to failures of personal protective equipment or mechanical systems to needle sticks and animal bites.”
To cite just one example of accidents at NIAID-funded labs, in 2009, Olaf Schneewind, who directs NIAID’s Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research at the University of Chicago, lost his co-principal investigatorwhen Malcolm Casadaban died from an infection with a weakened strain of plague bacteria. Two years later, in another accident in his lab, a researcher became infected with Bacillus cereus, which can cause food-borne infections. She was hospitalized; after receiving surgery and antibiotics, she was released.
With laboratory acquired infections happening at NIAID labs at a steady rate, the likelihood of a lab accident resulting in a pandemic can be predicted mathematically. Scientists Lynn C. Klotz and Edward J. Sylvester (“The Consequences of a Lab Escape of a Potential Pandemic Pathogen,” August 11, 2014) calculated the probability of one escape from 10 labs in 10 years to be “91%, almost a certainty” and the chance of one of these lab-acquired infections causing a pandemic to be as high as 27%―“a likelihood that is too dangerous to live with.”
With hundreds of labs, the risk-per-lab remains the same, but the number of accidents and their frequency grows.
3. Fauci put the world at risk of a pandemic
Fauci put the world at risk of a pandemic by funding dangerous “gain-of-function” experiments with potential pandemic pathogens, including EcoHealth Alliance’s collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). (See our profiles of Ralph Baric, Peter Daszak and Shi Zhengli.)
Fauci’s grants supported WIV’s collection of bat coronaviruses and their manipulation of these previously harmless viruses, through genetic engineering and synthetic biology, to make them transmissible and deadly to humans.
While the bats blamed for SARS-CoV-2 are 1000 miles away from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, WIV was right there, conducting risky experiments on the largest collection of SARS-like coronaviruses in the world.
4. Fauci predicted the pandemic
In January 2017, Fauci warned Trump that there would be a “surprise outbreak.”
Given what we’ve learned above about the frequency and regularity of lab accidents and the risks that Fauci knowingly created by funding dangerous research to make potential pandemic pathogens more dangerous, is it any surprise that he was able to predict COVID-19 with astonishing accuracy?
5. Fauci is hiding the truth about the lab origins of COVID-19
Fauci is actively suppressing what should be an unbiased public investigation into the origins of COVID-19 by refusing to even acknowledge the possibility of a lab origin, even though he has expert knowledge of lab accidents at high-containment facilities and has made public statements on the problem in the past.
He knows that lab accidents happen. In 2012, he wrote:
“Consider this hypothetical scenario: an important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations. In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?”
(Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his colleagues at Children’s Health Defense included this quote in a letter to Congress demanding an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. You can send your own letter to Congress here.)
Fauci knows, but he doesn’t care.
He told “National Geographic” that, if scientists found the coronavirus outside the lab, brought it back and then it escaped, “that means it was in the wild, to begin with. That’s why I don’t get what they’re talking about [and] why I don’t spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument.”
6. Fauci is hiding the truth about a lot of things
Suppressing science and biasing investigations is Fauci’s modus operandi.
Currently, he is using the pandemic to push for the adoption of Gilead’s experimental Remdesivirover off-patent hydroxychloroquine.
In the past, he took an ax to Judy Mikovits’ discovery that the virus XMRV is common in people with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) and possibly associated with autism.
Fauci needed to cover this up because XMRV is a product of lab contamination. It may have been transmitted to humans through vaccines and it wouldn’t be the first time that vaccine production resulted in the outbreak of a new disease.
It is uncontroverted that the first reported filovirus outbreak (filoviruses include Ebola and Marburg) occurred among laboratory workers who used monkey kidney cell cultures in the production of polio vaccines.
There is also evidence that simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) was transmitted to humans, becoming human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), through polio vaccines made from chimpanzee kidneys in the Belgian Congo in the 1950s (see the work of Tom Curtis and Edward Hooper) and through Hepatitis B vaccines manufactured the same way in Liberia by the New York Blood Center and distributed in New York City in the 1970s (see the work of Leonard Horowitz and Alan Cantwell).
“There's an old saying in science: You don't publish your mistakes," one observer close to these controversies told Brad Tyer at the Houston Press (“The Man Who Knew Too Soon?” January 20, 2000).
To begin to acknowledge scientific mistakes that have caused devastating pandemics and killed millions, is just too much for establishment gate-keepers like Fauci to handle.
If these theories were proved, or even widely accepted, the public's confidence in the infallibility of science would be shattered. Fauci must fear that people would quit taking their prescriptions, getting their kids vaccinated and wearing their masks.
But this is much bigger than the legitimacy of national health policies. This is about the legitimacy of the U.S. as a nation.
How would a country like the U.S., that hasn’t even made reparations for the slavery of African Americans, the theft of land from Indigenous Nations, or civilians killed in wars to control other nation’s resources, deal with geopolitical ramifications if, as Tyer puts it:
“… a naturalized American doctor born in Poland were found to have squirted the AIDS virus, however unwittingly, into the mouths of close to a million Africans, many of them children, with nothing but the permission of a Belgian colonial government and his own place in the race to eradicate polio justifying his actions? What of the question of legal and moral responsibility toward the infected?”
Also, what of the reputations of the scientists involved?
For Fauci, whose career at the NIAID goes back to 1968 and who has directed the nation’s policies on infectious diseases as chief since 1984, these are consequences too terrifying to consider.
As Mikovits learned, no matter how divergent Fauci’s opinions are from the scientific evidence, few scientists will challenge him because to do so is career suicide for the simple fact that Fauci controls the NIAID budget—$5.89 billion this year.
As I write this, one day after an election that doesn’t look like it will be over any time soon, I realize that there may never have been a more difficult time to put aside partisan differences to demand truth and justice… but what choice do we have?
Read more from our Gain of Function Hall of Shame.