FLASHBACK: Fauci defends lifting NIH funding ban on gain-of-function research

"I don't think this is going to be fool-proof, I think things are going to slip through, but I think this is a much better approach than we've had before," Fauci told the NIAID Advisory Council.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

In 2017, the National Institutes of Health lifted its funding ban on gain-of-function research, and shortly thereafter, Dr. Anthony Fauci explained what this meant. An investigation found that Dr. Anthony Fauci did not warn Trump administration officials before a ban was removed on gain-of-function research back in 2017.

"Anyway, so let me just go on about 'NIH lifts funding pause on gain-of-function research,'" Fauci said.

"Let me explain this just a little," he said, "because whenever this comes out there's always the pushing back and forth from the press, so like 'NIH now is going to do dangerous research.' No. As a matter of fact, it's exactly the opposite.

"So a framework has now been established to guide funding decisions on proposed research that might be anticipated to create transfer or use enhanced potential pandemic pathogens. The program, everybody has to have a neat little name to it, this is called P3CO... it's potential pandemic preparedness care and oversight.

"Now why is this different from everything else we've been doing? It's different because remember the trouble we would get in when someone would do an experiment, they would submit it to a journal, and just as it's getting ready to go out, everybody would start scrambling around 'should we be publishing, should it not?'

"So we decided to go upstream from that and talk about decisions that are made by government funding. Remember, we have no control over things that are not funded by the government. But in government-funded activities, to guide the funding decision before you actually do the experiment.

"I don't think this is going to be fool-proof, I think things are going to slip through, but I think this is a much better approach than we've had before," Fauci told the NIAID Advisory Council in 2018.

It was in December 2017 that the National Institutes of Health announced the lifting of "a funding pause dating back to October 2014 on gain-of-function (GOF) experiments involving influenza, SARS, and MERS viruses."

The NIH stated that "GOF research is important in helping us identify, understand, and develop strategies and effective countermeasures against rapidly evolving pathogens that pose a threat to public health."

It was in response to the Department of Health and Human Services Framework for Guiding Funding Decisions about Proposed Research Involving Enhanced Potential Pandemic Pathogens that the NIH lifted their ban.

They said that the "HHS P3CO Framework," which Fauci laid out above, "describes a multi-disciplinary review process, involving the funding agency and a Department-level review group, that considers the scientific merits and potential benefits of the research, as well as the potential to create, transfer, or use an enhanced potential pandemic pathogen. This framework formalizes robust oversight for federally funded research with enhanced pathogens of pandemic potential."

In defense of this form of research, Dr. Francis S. Collins of the NIH said "We have a responsibility to ensure that research with infectious agents is conducted responsibly, and that we consider the potential biosafety and biosecurity risks associated with such research. I am confident that the thoughtful review process laid out by the HHS P3CO Framework will help to facilitate the safe, secure, and responsible conduct of this type of research in a manner that maximizes the benefits to public health."


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