During an interview with CBS' “The Takeout” podcast recorded on Wednesday and released on Thursday, White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci defended the NIH funding research at the Wuhan Institute Virology and said that “the only regret is that what it has caused right now is such a degree of distraction” from combating the pandemic.
Host Major Garrett asked, [relevant exchange begins around 7:35] “There were two grants from the National Institutes of Health into investigatory work in the field in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and another institution there. Have you run to ground what those did or didn't do in terms of creating any atmosphere in which a leak could have occurred or might have occurred?”
Fauci responded, “Well, the grants that [were] funded were to do surveillance in the environment to ask and answer questions that I just mentioned, when you go out, do you see any viruses out there that could potentially evolve to infect humans and do you do surveillance among people in those areas in China to see if there's any inkling that, under the radar screen, such viruses may have been circulating. In fact, one of the papers that came out from studies from that grant was extremely important in putting a definitive stamp of understanding of how the original SARS-CoV-1 was able to evolve. So, those were questions that got a high priority in peer review to do the research to try and understand that.”
Garrett then asked, “And to those who think there might be some type of scandal or something incorrect or ill-advised about those grants, what would you say, Dr. Fauci?”
Fauci answered, “Well, what you do, Major, is you take a look at the viruses that [were] worked on under the auspices of that grant and what the grant was directed for. And you look at the publications that came from the research associated with that grant. The viruses that were worked with in that environment, in that particular context of that grant could not possibly molecularly evolved into what we know now as SARS-CoV-2. Because when you look at how you can go from one virus and do something with it to get to be another, the viruses that the grant allowed the investigators, competent investigators to work with, molecularly, were so different than what ultimately came out to be SARS-CoV-2 that anyone that looks at those two viruses who knows anything about evolutionary virology will tell you that they're so far apart that you couldn't possibly have had it emerge into that particular virus.”
Garrett then asked, “Real quickly, no regrets about those grants?”
Fauci responded, “Well, the only regret is that what it has caused right now is such a degree of distraction [from] trying to do what we really should be doing, is addressing the outbreak, and what we did, and did quite successfully, was to develop vaccines that have now been life-saving. That's what the job of myself and my team and my institute is, and, thankfully, we did that very successfully.”
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