Fauci Praised 'Competent, Trustworthy Scientists' in Wuhan. His Own Agency Said They Needed Ethics Training Over 'Research Misconduct.'

Fauci's NIH launched $300,000 effort to combat 'research misconduct,' 'publication fraud' in Chinese research institutions

Anthony Fauci (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
June 6, 2023

Dr. Anthony Fauci in 2021 dismissed concerns that U.S.-funded Chinese scientists lied about performing risky gain-of-function research, calling those scientists "competent" and "trustworthy." But a publicly disclosed grant shows Fauci's own agency was simultaneously funding ethics training for Chinese scientists over widespread "research misconduct."

Fauci's National Institutes of Health in 2019 launched a $300,000 grant to "strengthen research integrity" at China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention and two other major Chinese research institutions. Troubling instances of "research misconduct," "inadequate ethical review," and "publication fraud" at the institutions, the agency wrote in its grant description, "have had a negative impact on Chinese scientists and their U.S. collaborators" and "highlighted China's underdeveloped research ethics capacity and infrastructure," prompting the need for ethics and integrity training.

The agency's concerns contradict Fauci's own comments to Congress in 2021. In May 2021, roughly a year after the coronavirus came to the United States, Fauci insisted that scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were both "competent" and "trustworthy" and would not have used American money to conduct gain-of-function research, which aims to make viruses intentionally more transmissible. That October, the National Institutes of Health admitted that Chinese scientists at the lab indeed used U.S. funds to create a coronavirus that was more infectious in mice.

"Dr. Fauci, I believe you have testified that you didn't give any money to the Wuhan lab to conduct gain-of-function research. Is that right?" Louisiana Republican senator John Kennedy asked Fauci during the May 2021 Senate hearing. "That is correct," Fauci responded.

"How do you know they didn't lie to you and use the money for gain-of-function research anyway?" Kennedy shot back. "In our experience with grantees, including Chinese grantees, which we have had interactions with for a very long period of time, they are very competent, trustworthy scientists," Fauci concluded.

In addition to the National Institutes of Health ethics training grant—which came as Fauci served as the agency's allergy and infectious diseases director—the Chinese government's refusal to participate in an international investigation into COVID-19's origins undercut Fauci's comments. Prior to the virus's outbreak, U.S. science diplomats issued warnings about safety and management issues at the Wuhan lab, including concerns that the lab's work on bat coronaviruses could create a pandemic. The Energy Department has since concluded that COVID probably originated in a lab. The FBI also believes the so-called lab leak theory with "moderate confidence."

"It's no secret that China's been hugely obstructive. Hugely obstructive," Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley said in March. "And, you know, that's going to continue, but that doesn't mean that we can sit back and say we'll never know. And indeed, we have multiple agencies now that think they do know."

Adam Andrzejewski, the founder of the fiscal watchdog group OpenTheBooks, blasted Fauci's National Institutes of Health for funding Chinese scientists while questioning their conduct.

"Our health, wealth, and national security should not be in question when we hand out grants and contracts," Andrzejewski told the Washington Free Beacon. His group last week released a report outlining $490 million in taxpayer-funded grants paid to Chinese organizations from 2017 to 2022. Two million dollars of that money, the report found, went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The National Institutes of Health did not return a request for comment.