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Rubio Joins Marshall and Colleagues in Introducing Legislation to Halt Viral Gain of Function Research

Oct 19, 2021 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) and 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 risky gain-of-function research on potential pandemic pathogens. This legislation is in response to 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.
 
The bill follows Rubio’s introduction of the COVID Act of 2021, which would authorize sanctions and suspend funding for gain of function research in the event that the Chinese Communist Party does not allow for a credible and comprehensive investigation into the origins of COVID-19 at suspected laboratories in Wuhan.
 
Rubio and Marshall were joined by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), and James Lankford (R-OK).
 
“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,” Rubio said. “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.”
 
“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,” Marshall said. “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.”
 
“Even as Dr. Fauci denies it, there is strong evidence COVID-19 started in a lab in Wuhan,” Paul said. “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.”
 
“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,” Ernst said. “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.”
  
“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,” Lankford said. “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.”  
 
“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,” Blackburn said.
 
“I’ve long said that identifying the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is vital for preventing future pandemics,” Braun said. “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 the risk of a 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.”
 
“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,” Tuberville said. “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,” Cotton said.
 
Background:
 
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 regarding its transmissibility, pathogenicity, or host tropism. GoF studies involving human pathogens or potential pathogens pose a great risk to global health, as they directly aim to alter viruses in ways that can be 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 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 (USAID) 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.