By DYLAN HOUSMAN, HEALTHCARE REPORTER | August 10, 2022
A well-known scientist who criticized Republican efforts to investigate a potential lab leak of COVID-19 and gain-of-function (GoF) research himself took part in such research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and did not disclose it to a commission he served on. Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, funded a scientific study authored by Dr. Shi Zhengli, also known as WIV’s “bat lady,” describing their work creating a recombinant virus from two SARS-like coronaviruses, according to U.S. Right To Know (USRTK),
The scientist was also awarded an NIH grant between 2012 and 2017 for the purpose of researching a vaccine against SARS “due to possible zoonotic reintroduction into humans, accidental release from a laboratory or deliberate spreading of the virus through bioterrorism,” USRTK reported.
Hotez also serves on The Lancet COVID-19 Commission, an investigative group formed by the scientific journal seeking to find the origin of COVID-19. Jeffrey Sachs, the former chairman of the commission before resigning due to conflicts of interest compromising several members, said Hotez routinely rejected any notion that a lab leak was possible.
Stanford microbiologist and biosecurity expert David Relman told USRTK that Hotez’s work with the WIV should probably have been subject to the NIH’s GoF research funding pause, which was active between 2014 and 2017.
“Whenever I discussed the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was a laboratory release, Hotez strongly rejected that possibility, but never explained to me or to the Lancet Commission that he actually had a grant that was based on that very kind of risk,” Sachs told USRTK. “He should certainly have been clear on that.”
Hoertz had previously called inquiries from Republican lawmakers about GoF research “a threat to the whole nation” in a semi-viral tweet thread last week, specifically targeting Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Fauci Warned Of Accidental Pandemic Caused By Lab Accident In Foreign Countries A Decade Ago)
Paul led a Senate hearing on GoF research last week, in which an expert panel testified that the work is too dangerous to continue without increased oversight from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and that a lab leak may have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotez further accused Paul of playing politics and elevating fringe beliefs.
“America is a nation built on science and technology and our great research universities and institutions. If we allow the extremists to undermine us, it’s a threat to the whole nation. Remember the scientists are the real patriots, not the chuckleheads,” Hotez tweeted in part.: