The National Institutes of Health (NIH) came under fire this week after it admitted to funding gain-of-function research on the coronavirus in China's Wuhan Institute of Virology, but the U.S. is not the only country that was "complicit" in supporting the controversial research, according to investigative Australian reporter Sharri Markson.
The global scientific community had "full knowledge" of the research being conducted on bats in the Wuhan lab, Markson charges in her new book "What Really Happened In Wuhan."
According to Markson, state funding was granted on a global scale for gain-of-function research — a practice that involves artificially engineering an animal virus to examine how it becomes more easily transmissible and deadly to humans.
"International partners were complicit in so much of this," Markson noted in her book.
She found that Australia trained "leading scientists" in the controversial research, while France reportedly constructed the laboratory in conjunction with China.
Markson also reported that the U.S. continued to fund scientific gain-of-function research "even after banning it within the United States."
Under President Obama, funding for this type of research was paused in 2014 in 22 areas, including in experimental studies related to SARS, influenza and MERs.
"During this pause, the U.S. Government will not fund any new projects involving these experiments and encourages those currently conducting this type of work – whether federally funded or not – to voluntarily pause their research while risks and benefits are being reassessed," the White House said in an Oct. 17, 2014 statement. "The funding pause will not apply to the characterization or testing of naturally occurring influenza, MERS, and SARS viruses unless there is a reasonable expectation that these tests would increase transmissibility or pathogenicity."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which falls under the NIH, reportedly supported the pause, though the temporary suspension was lifted in 2017.
But Markson alleged the pause was "inexplicably lifted under the Trump administration" with "no adequate explanation."
She said that after speaking with former President Trump officials, they were unaware of any changes to gain-of-function policies and alleged the top doctor "rammed" the changes through.
Former Health Secretary Alex Azar similarly claimed he had no knowledge of restrictions having been lifted on gain-of-function research until media reports surfaced in 2021.
A NIH spokesman told Fox News the accusations were "not accurate," and pointed NIH oversight policies that coordinate actions by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy when it comes to gain of function research.
Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.