Vociferous ‘Vaccine’ Proponent Peter Hotez Accused of Using NIH Funding to Dole Out Money for Gain-of-Function Research, But Exact Truth Is Unclear (Opinion)

Some news outlets are reporting that vaccine fanatic Dr. Peter Hotez used NIH funds to dole out grants for gain-of-function research, but whether or not he actually did appears to be unclear.

U.S. Right to Know (or USRTK), “a nonprofit investigative research group focused on promoting transparency for public health,” recently put out a report stating that Dr. Peter Hotez—the  Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and a rabid proponent of “vaccines,” particularly the ones for COVID-19—“helped fund [a] Wuhan gain-of-function [GOF] study” using funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But while this may be true, whether or not Hotez actually did fund GOF research is still not completely clear.

“While casting concerns about Wuhan’s labs as ‘fringe,’ Hotez has not mentioned his own connection to a project involving a laboratory-generated chimeric SARS-related coronavirus that has come under Congress’ microscope,” USRTK noted in its report. “As part of his NIH grant, Hotez subcontracted funding for research on combined or ‘chimeric’ coronaviruses, a scientific paper shows. Hotez’s grant underwrote two of [Shi Zhengli’s] collaborators on the project.” As USRTK notes, Hotez’s grant total was approximately $6.1 million, and spanned the five years between 2012 and 2017.

USRTK focuses on one specific study partly funded by Hotez’s grant (R01AI098775)—as evidence that he did, indeed, help fund a Wuhan GOF study. In the study, outlined in a letter to the editor in the journal Science China Life Sciences, a team of researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)—as well as several other institutions—outlines how it analyzed “the cross-neutralization activity of SARS-CoV RBD [receptor binding domain]-specific antibodies after in vitro infection by… two bat SL-CoV [SARS-like coronavirus] strains” in the hopes of developing more effective SARS-coronavirus “vaccines.” Or, in other words, the researchers tested the efficacy of antibodies specifically aimed at neutralizing coronaviruses by blocking the receptor binding domain of the virus, which docks with the cell.

USRTK’s core claim seems to be that the scientists, in part funded by Hotez’s NIH grant money, “generated a recombinant virus from two SARS-related coronaviruses,” dubbed “rWIV1-SHC014S.” Indeed, according to the researchers’ study:

“Since SHC014 could not be successfully isolated, a recombinant virus (rWIV1-SHC014S) was constructed based on the WIV1 backbone with the replacement of SHC014S gene, as described previously (Zeng et al., 2016). The S sequence of SHC014 was amplified with primer pair (F-SHC014-Bsa I, 5′-AGTGGTCTCAACGAACATGAAATTGTTAGTTTTAGTTTTTGCTAC-3′ and R-SHC014-Bsa I, 5′-TCAGGTCTCAGTTCGTTTATGTGTAATGTAATTTGACACCCTTG-3′), digested with Bsa I, and inserted into an artificial bacterial.”

Interestingly, SHC014a bat coronavirus—was used by Ralph S. Baric et al. for a study in 2015. In the study, which was funded in part by Anthony Fauci‘s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), researchers “synthesized the SHC014 [spike protein]” in order to “maximize the opportunity of pathogenesis.” Ultimately, the researchers were able to deliver a variation of the SHC014 spike protein that showed “a gain in pathogenesis.”

In the 2017 paper partly funded by Hotez’s grant, the researchers note they were unable to isolate the natural SHC014 bat virus, so they made a “recombinant” (or recombined) version, dubbed rWIV1-SHC014S; the recombinant virus had the “backbone” of the WIV1 (or Wuhan Institute of Virology 1) virus combined with the spike protein of SHC014. The researchers credit the construction for the recombinant virus to a team of researchers who noted the chimera in a study published in the Journal of Virology in June of 2016. The team—which included EcoHealth Alliance head Peter Daszak as one of its authors—outlined how “SHC014, has been demonstrated to use human ACE2 by the construction of an infectious cDNA clone.” The authors added that “animal infection experiments indicated that SL-CoV WIV1 and SHC014 could replicate efficiently and caused low pathogenesis in ACE2 transgenic mice.”

In other words, in Daszak’s research, scientists constructed infectious, recombinant viruses, and even infected “humanized” mouse cells. It’s unclear if Daszak et al. used SHC014 for their study specifically, however. (Note Daszak did, unequivocally, use the spike protein from SHC014 for other GOF research.)

While it may seem easy to come to the conclusion the 2017 paper constituted GOF research, as the researchers did generate a recombinant virus—with a spike protein that had been proven to infect humanized mouse cells, no less—they only used it to infect mouse serum (or the fluid and solute component of blood which does not play a role in clotting) loaded with antibodies. (Antibodies produced from mice that the researchers infected with recombinant SARS-CoV RBD proteins.) Notably, they did find that the antibodies generated were able to defend against the WIV1 virus, but not rWIV1-SHC014S.

Not only did the researchers not infect mice with humanized cells using rWIV1-SHC014S—as Ralph Baric, et al. clearly did in their 2015 study—they also don’t make it clear their goal was to increase the virus’ pathogenesis. Again, as Baric, et al. did in 2015. On top of that, it seems Hotez only funded two of the scientists who participated in the study—Shibo Jiang and Lanying Du; neither of whom work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Regardless of these caveats, however, it is still incumbent upon Hotez to explain this particular study. And perhaps other research he funded with money from the NIH. As of this writing he’s responded to USRTK’s claim by noting in a tweet (at top) that “Not a dime of [his] NIH grant ever went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology or any other Chinese institutions.” Hotez added that R01AI098775 “was a grant for SARS vaccine development between 4 institutions, Baylor, UTMB, NY Blood Center, and Walter Reed Army Institute.”

Note that Hotez’s claim that his NIH grant never went to “any other Chinese institutions” could perhaps be contested based on Shibo Jiang’s employer—the Shanghai Medical Center at Fudan University.

Image: NIH

Ultimately, via Jiang and Du, Hotez technically helped to create a recombinant virus—which was particularly adept at avoiding antibodies in vitro, and armed with a spike protein known to be effective at binding with humanized cells. And for that, the “vaccine” researcher owes the public an explanation.

As a relevant tangential story, it seems Hotez emphatically believes there was a natural origin for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), as evinced by the tweet immediately above. The “vaccine” fanatic, who serves as a member of The Lancet‘s “COVID commission,” also disagrees with the commission’s chair, who is “pretty convinced” SARS-CoV-2 came out of “U.S. lab biotechnology.”

Feature image: United States Mission Geneva

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