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E&C oversight hosts first hearing on COVID origins

Victoria Knight
Feb 1, 2023
Morgan Griffith speaks during a hearing on April 6, 2022.

Morgan Griffith speaks during a hearing on April 6, 2022. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House Energy and Commerce oversight panel started its effort to investigate COVID’s origins today.

Why it matters: This kickoff hearing, which stayed pretty measured, sets the tone for the many pandemic origins hearings we expect this Congress.

Three things that caught our attention:

1) Oversight panel Chair Morgan Griffith asked whether NIH grants would need to have "additional teeth," such as specific data reporting requirements, in order to ensure that gain-of-function research is properly overseen, especially for Chinese institutions.

2) Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers floated standing up a single office to be responsible for what the scientists called "bio-attribution" — defined as "investigating the source of biological events" — which would be helpful in determining the origins of pandemics.

  • She said she hoped the committee could work in a bipartisan manner on pandemic preparedness legislation.

3) Several of the scientists at the hearing suggested the political discourse around gain-of-function could hinder future research on viruses.

  • "That very much concerns me because if those individuals get discouraged from doing this type of research, that's going to leave us in a less better place in the future," said Michael Imperiale, a microbiology professor at University of Michigan.
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