Pfizer released a statement Friday evening after a bombshell Project Veritas video showed a director claiming the company is conducting “directed evolution” research to study how COVID could be mutated in order to “preemptively develop new vaccines.”
Seeking to “set the record straight,” Pfizer denied conducting either gain of function or directed evolution research in developing the COVID-19 vaccine. The company does say, however, that in some cases, "when a virus does not have any known gain of function mutations, such virus may be engineered to enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells."
Working with collaborators, we have conducted research where the original SARS-CoV-2 virus has been used to express the spike protein from new variants of concern. This work is undertaken once a new variant of concern has been identified by public health authorities. This research provides a way for us to rapidly assess the ability of an existing vaccine to induce antibodies that neutralize a newly identified variant of concern. We then make this data available through peer reviewed scientific journals and use it as one of the steps to determine whether a vaccine update is required.
In addition, to meet U.S. and global regulatory requirements for our oral treatment, PAXLOVID™, Pfizer undertakes in vitro work (e.g., in a laboratory culture dish) to identify potential resistance mutations to nirmatrelvir, one of PAXLOVID’s two components. With a naturally evolving virus, it is important to routinely assess the activity of an antiviral. Most of this work is conducted using computer simulations or mutations of the main protease–a non-infectious part of the virus. In a limited number of cases when a full virus does not contain any known gain of function mutations, such virus may be engineered to enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells. In addition, in vitro resistance selection experiments are undertaken in cells incubated with SARS-CoV-2 and nirmatrelvir in our secure Biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory to assess whether the main protease can mutate to yield resistant strains of the virus. It is important to note that these studies are required by U.S. and global regulators for all antiviral products and are carried out by many companies and academic institutions in the U.S. and around the world.
Fact-based information rooted in sound science is vitally important to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic and Pfizer remains committed to transparency and helping alleviate the devastating burden of this disease. (Pfizer)
Responding to the "bizarre" statement, Fox News's Tucker Carlson called the admission that regulators require these experiments "big news if true" and wondered which regulators required them. After all, as the Pfizer director explains in the video, there is a revolving door between the company and U.S. regulators, who seek jobs at Pfizer after they leave the government.
He called on Congress to get some answers.