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Tipsheet

NIH Quietly Edits Section of Website on Gain-of-Function Research

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The National Institutes of Health edited a section of its website explaining gain-of-function research this month as scrutiny over the research the NIH funded in Wuhan, China intensified.

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The original page, seen on the Wayback Machine, displays several sections including Potential Pandemic Pathogens, Gain-of-Function Research, U.S. Government Funding Pause, HHS P3CO Framework, Research Within P3CO Scope, Research Outside P3CO Scope, and a Timeline.

The Gain-of-Function section stated:

The term gain-of-function (GOF) research describes a type of research that modifies a biological agent so that it confers new or enhanced activity to that agent. Some scientists use the term broadly to refer to any such modification. However, not all research described as GOF entails the same level of risk. For example, research that involves the modification of bacteria to allow production of human insulin, or the altering of the genetic program of immune cells in CAR-T cell therapy to treat cancer generally would be considered low risk. The subset of GOF research that is anticipated to enhance the transmissibility and/or virulence of potential pandemic pathogens, which are likely to make them more dangerous to humans, has been the subject of substantial scrutiny and deliberation. Such GOF approaches can sometimes be justified in laboratories with appropriate biosafety and biosecurity controls to help us understand the fundamental nature of human-pathogen interactions, assess the pandemic potential of emerging infectious agents, and inform public health and preparedness efforts, including surveillance and the development of vaccines and medical countermeasures. This research poses biosafety and biosecurity risks, and these risks must be carefully managed. When supported with NIH funds, this subset of GOF research may only be conducted in laboratories with stringent oversight and appropriate biosafety and biosecurity controls(link is external) to help protect researchers from infection and prevent the release of microorganisms into the environment. (NIH)

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Now the page lists only Potential Pandemic Pathogens, ePPP Research, and Oversight.

The edits come as Sen. Rand Paul is calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci to resign for lying about gain-of-function research.

“He should be fired,” Paul told “Axios on HBO” in an interview that aired Sunday. 

“The thing is, is just for lack of judgment of nothing else, and I, you know, he's probably never going to admit that he lied, he's going to continue to dissemble and try to work around the truth and massage the truth,” he added.

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While Paul has been making this case for awhile, the sentiments were renewed after Lawrence Tabak, the principal deputy director at the NIH, revealed new details in a letter about an NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which conducted research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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