The former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the Trump administration argued that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is likely a result of gain-of-function research.
Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield made this assertion during the March 8 hearing of the House Subcommittee on the COVID-19 Pandemic. He told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) that COVID-19 “looked as though it was altered in a lab.”
“It’s important to understand what [the] cleavage site does. It changes the orientation of the binding domain of COVID. So now [that] it could not see the ACE2 receptor, it totally changes the orientation now,” Redfield expounded. “So it has a high affinity for human receptors. It didn’t seem that it belonged there.”
He emphasized the “engineered” nature of SARS-CoV-2 given that it had the arginine sequences for humans rather than bats. This, he told Greene, “would be in line with gain-of-function research.”
Redfield’s testimony followed a pivot by the Biden administration toward the possibility of COVID-19 leaking from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China’s Hubei province. Several agencies, including the Department of Energy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also expressed likelihood of the pathogen escaping the laboratory.
The former CDC head ultimately denounced gain-of-function research in front of the subcommittee, which was established to focus mainly on the origins of COVID-19. “I think it probably caused the greatest pandemic our world has seen,” he said.
During his testimony, Redfield called lawmakers’ attention to three events that happened at the WIV laboratory in September 2019 before COVID-19 broke out.
“[First,] they deleted the sequences. That is highly irregular; researchers don’t usually like to do that. [The] second thing they did was they changed command and control from civilian to military – highly unusual.”
“The third thing they did – which I think is really telling – is they let a contractor redo the ventilation system in that laboratory. So I think, clearly, there was a strong evidence that there was a significant event that happened in that laboratory in September .”
The former CDC head also testified that Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), “sidelined” him from any internal discussions about the pandemic’s origin. The infectious disease expert who left government service at the end of 2022 allegedly did not like Redfield’s espousal of the lab leak theory.
“This was an a priori decision that there’s one point of view that we’re going to put out there, and anyone who doesn’t agree with it is going to be sidelined,” Redfield testified. “And as I say, I was only the CDC director – and I was sidelined.”
Moreover, he revealed he was unaware of Fauci and former National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins holding a conference call on Feb. 1, 2020 to discuss the outbreak. Redfield added that he only became aware of the said call, which also had two other researchers, after internal emails were made public.
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