Following reports of numerous undisclosed biolab accidents, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and her colleagues are demanding the White House reinstate a government-wide ban on all ongoing and new viral Gain-of-Function (GoF) and Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) studies—when diseases are manipulated to become more deadly or infectious—which may have increased transmissibility of a coronavirus pathogen during experiments at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
Taxpayers entrust NIH with tens of billions of dollars every year in the hopes of discovering cures, not creating dangerous new diseases. These risky experiments are even more concerning now that we know accidents are happening in the most highly secure labs, and NIH is not fully aware of what is happening in the studies it is sponsoring.
“The NIH still can’t answer questions about the dangerous experiments with coronaviruses that Dr. Fauci was funding in China’s Wuhan Institute, and the agency wasn’t even aware it was sponsoring risky research enhancing coronaviruses at Boston University,” said Ernst. “What other dangerous studies are being funded by NIH and other government agencies, and where are those occurring? We need answers now. Until we know, and measures are put in place to guarantee safety and transparency, it is imperative that a moratorium be enacted immediately on this risky research.”
In a letter addressed to White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar, Ernst and her colleagues detailed their concerns about the ambiguity of the existing guidelines for this dangerous research. The senators also pointed to recent examples of GoF and DURC projects in the United States that were sponsored by NIH and could contribute to another pandemic if a laboratory accident occurs. Under the Obama-Biden administration there was a government-wide ban on GoF and DURC studies involving dangerous pathogens.
Read the full letter here.
Since 2020, Ernst has continually pushed for more oversight and accountability in federal research labs, specifically in taxpayer-funded experiments run by NIH.
- In May 2020, Ernst and the White Coat Waste Project revealed that $600,000 in NIH funding was awarded to WIV for dangerous and secretive coronavirus experiments, despite repeated warnings from State Department officials who had visited the lab and stated it was dangerous due to lax safety practices.
- In March 2021, Ernst called on the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services to increase cost transparency from the agency, pointing to NIH providing nearly $15 million to WIV funneled through EcoHealth Alliance.
- In November 2021, Ernst introduced the FAUCI Act, which calls for a full accounting of how and where U.S. tax dollars are being spent, a complete ban on funding of Gain-of-Function research in Communist China, and restrictions on government officials who intentionally mislead Congress.
- In September 2021, Ernst introduced bicameral legislation to prohibit federal funding of EcoHealth Alliance. Following the introduction of this legislation, in October, Ernst led letters to both NIH and the National Science Foundation demanding the agencies end their grant relationship with EcoHealth.