Top NIH Official Was Unaware of Boston Lab’s New COVID Research With ‘80 Percent’ Kill Rate in Mice

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A National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases official said the agency will further evaluate a controversial Boston University-commissioned preprint study that developed a COVID-19 hybrid that killed “80 percent” of lab mice, saying the team involved didn’t clear the work with the federal agency.

Speaking to STAT News, Emily Erbelding, the head of NIAID’s division of microbiology and infectious diseases, suggested that BU researchers did not properly disclose what their study would entail and did not say they would carry out that specific work. The grant proposal, Erbelding stated, also didn’t make it clear that scientists would be possibly enhancing a COVID-19 strain in reports that were handed to NIAID, the agency headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

This week, BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories drew condemnation and controversy when it published (pdf) the non-peer-reviewed paper showing researchers took the spike protein for the COVID-19 Omicron strain and grafted it to the original, Wuhan COVID-19 strain. They found that when tested on lab mice, the newly created strain is more lethal than the original Omicron variant—killing 80 percent of mice—although Erbelding noted that the original Wuhan strain killed 100 percent of those mice.

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