Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the The Daily Wire. The author of this post is Tim Meads.
Can you guess where this potential scandal occurred based on the following clues?
A U.S government-funded lab. Potentially unauthorized experiments creating deadly hybrid COVID strains. Denial of gain-of-function research. Ties to EcoHealth Alliance. Cries of misinformation.
That story didn't happen in Wuhan, China.
It allegedly happened right here in the United States, specifically in Boston, Massachusetts, within the last year.
Last Friday, Boston University's National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories released data claiming that it had combined the original strain of COVID with the omicron variant, resulting in a new strain of COVID that killed 80% of mice in the trial.
The new strain, while less deadly to mice than the original, is more deadly than the omicron variant, according to BU research. The lab denies that it was conducting controversial gain of function experiments.
"First, this research is not gain-of-function research, meaning it did not amplify the Washington state SARS-COV-2 virus strain (original virus from 2020) or make it more dangerous,"
BU said in a statement after media reported the findings on Monday.
"In fact, this research made the virus replicate less dangerous,"
the university claimed.
The information was released as a "preprint"
and has not been peer-reviewed.
Why was this research necessary at all?
Well, BU claims it is to "fight against future pandemics,"
but the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) maintains that the lab was not fully transparent when it applied for approval.
"Emily Erbelding, director of NIAID's division of microbiology and infectious diseases, said the BU team's original grant applications did not specify that the scientists wanted to do this precise work,"
reported STAT, a media outlet that focuses on health, medicine, and life sciences. "Nor did the group make clear that it was doing experiments that might involve enhancing a pathogen of pandemic potential in the progress reports it provided to NIAID."
In fact, Erbelding claims that NIAID only found out about the study through media reports.
"I think we're going to have conversations over upcoming days,"
Erbelding remarked to STAT.
Erbelding added that NIAID wished BU had informed the federal agency prior to conducting the work.
In reaction to BU's denial of impropriety, Richard Ebright, the Board of Governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University and laboratory director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, said that such a defense was false.
"The claims in BU's public statement that: 'this research is not gain-of-function research,' 'it did not..make it more dangerous,' and 'this research made the virus replicate less dangerous [sic]' are demonstrably false and should be deeply embarrassing,"
He also alleged, "It is concerning that this research-like the research in Wuhan that may have caused the pandemic-was not identified by the funding agency"
in the proper manner as enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research.
It would have had to have undergone a lengthy review process if it had been designated ePPP before approval.
Per the National Institutes of Health, "While ePPP research is a type of so-called 'gain-of-function' (GOF) research, the vast majority of GOF research does not involve ePPP and falls outside the scope of oversight required for research involving PPPs."
So in other words, because BU allegedly did not clear the research with NIAID, the college and researchers really cannot say whether or not this was gain-of-function research. It was never designated as such by the NIAID because NIAID never had the chance to review it.
Adding to the intrigue is that EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), in partnership with Boston University, was recently awarded a $1 million Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention Phase I (PIPP) grant.
EHA is also tied to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where many theorize COVID originated. It is unclear what role, if any, EHA played in Boston University's latest study.
Virologist Angela Rasmussen, a coronavirus expert at the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, claimed that uncertainty about the ePPP rules could explain the confusion.
"Because so much of the definition of ePPP pertains to 'reasonable anticipation' of results in humans (and animal models are not always good proxies of this), it's very difficult for researchers to say 'Oh yes, this is ePPP,"
Rasmussen told STAT.
She added that she would reach out when in doubt but noted that the opaque guidance often causes distrust. Rasmussen did not work on BU's research.
"I'm very tired of people suggesting that virologists and NIAID are reckless or don't care about biosafety,"
said Rasmussen. "The problem isn't that. The problem is that the guidelines and expectations aren't clear for many experiments and the process isn't transparent."
In response, Ebright tweeted, "People will stop suggesting virologists and NIAID are reckless or don't care about biosafety only when virologists and NIAID stop being reckless and start caring about biosafety."
It's wise advice. Until that happens, we'll be tracking this story and giving you the information you need.
The views expressed in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.