National Security spokesman John Kirby on Monday affirmed President Biden’s support for gain-of-function research, saying it was necessary to prevent future pandemics.
RealClearPolitics reporter Philip Wegmann asked Kirby if the president believed the reward outweighed the risk of gain-of-function research, which involves extracting viruses from animals to artificially engineer them in a lab to making it more transmissible and more lethal to humans.
“Does the president believe that this type of functional gain research is prudent?” Wegmann asked.
Kirby said the president believed the research was important to help prevent future pandemics.
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“Legitimate scientific research needs to be done on the sources or potential sources of a pandemic so that we can understand it, so that we can prevent them,” Kirby said. “But he also believes … that the research must be done in a safe and secure way and as transparent as possible to the rest of the world, so that the people know what is going on.”
Kirby’s comments come after he said the Biden administration has not reached a consensus on the origin of COVID-19 despite an assessment by the US Department of Energy (DOE) that the virus likely came from a leak from a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China .
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has admitted to funding gain-of-function research on bats infected with coronaviruses at a laboratory in Wuhan – despite repeated denials from Dr. Anthony Fauci that US tax dollars were used in the funding.
Earlier this month, House Republicans launched an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 by requesting documents and testimony from current and former Biden administration officials.
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The Republican chairs of the House Oversight Committee and the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic are seeking information, including from Fauci, regarding the idea that the coronavirus was accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.