By Dylan Housman
Scientists at Boston University have created a new version of COVID-19 that appears to be far deadlier than the dominant Omicron strain.
The team of scientists, from Boston and Florida, extracted the spike protein from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and attached it to the original strain of the virus that emerged from Wuhan, China. Lab mice were then infected with the new concoction, and 80% of the mice died.
Similar lab mice who were infected with the Omicron strain of COVID-19 all survived with only mild symptoms, the researchers said.
The spike protein is the part of the coronavirus that latches onto human cells and causes infection. Mutations in the spike protein are often what leads to newer, more infectious versions of COVID-19, such as the Omicron strain.
Other members of the scientific community were quick to lambast the researchers for engaging in dangerous studies. “This should be totally forbidden, it’s playing with fire,” professor Shmuel Shapira, former head of the Israel Institute for Biological Research, told the Daily Mail.
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.
— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) October 18, 2022
Dr. Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University microbiologist, said the research clearly constitutes “Gain-of-Function” (GoF) work. “The research is a clear example of gain of function research of concern and enhanced potential pandemic pathogen (ePPP) research,” he told the Daily Mail. “It is especially concerning that this new US-government ePPP research… appears not to have undergone the prior risk-benefit review mandated under US-government policies.”
Boston University issued a statement denying that the work meets the definition of GoF. “This research mirrors and reinforces the findings of other, similar research performed by other organizations,” a spokesperson said.
GoF research, in the context of dangerous pathogens, involves genetically modifying viruses to make them more transmissible, more deadly, or both. Proponents say this is important research to learn more about the way pathogens work and develop treatments and vaccines, but opponents, like Ebright, call it dangerous.
Dr. Mohsan Saeed, one of the authors of the new BU study, received a $2.5 million grant from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) earlier this year. Fauci has been an outspoken supporter of GoF research.
Some have posited that the COVID-19 pandemic may have started as a result of GoF research. Similar research on bat-based coronaviruses was being conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, just blocks away from the first known outbreak of COVID-19, in the leadup to the ongoing global pandemic.
Justin Goodman, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at White Coat Waste Project, also blasted the new research. ““Fauci and other mad scientists need to be stopped before they cause another pandemic by recklessly supercharging deadly viruses in wasteful taxpayer-funded animal experiments… Stop the madness.”
“Given the strong likelihood that the Covid pandemic originated from the escape of a lab-manipulated coronavirus in Wuhan, these experiments seem profoundly unwise,” professor David Livermore of the University of East Anglia told the Daily Mail. (RELATED: Renowned Molecular Biologist Accuses Fauci Of Lying To Congress About Gain-Of-Function Research)
Unsurprisingly, researchers at Boston University previously downplayed the possibility that a lab-leak caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Gerald Keusch, who works at the university’s National Emerging Infectious Disease Lab, where this research took place, was part of a recent publication arguing against a lab-leak. Keusch also previously argued against additional Congressional oversight of animal research.
At least one member of the research team also has a loose connection to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Dr. GuanQun Liu completed his bachelor’s degree at the Beijing Institute of Technology, a public research university in China controlled by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The CCP has consistently obstructed attempts to investigate the Wuhan Institute of Virology for evidence of a potential lab-leak.