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WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – Prominent virologists who took seriously the possibility of COVID-19 leaking from a lab early in the pandemic received millions of dollars in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants amid reconsidering their opinions, according to a records review conducted by the Washington Examiner.

In early 2020, Dr. Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Institute and Dr. Robert Garry of Tulane University notified former White House COVID adviser and National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci that they took seriously suspicions that COVID first escaped from China’s embattled Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

“[O]ne has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,” Andersen told Fauci on January 31, 2020. COVID’s genome, further, seemed “inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”

In March, however, both signed onto a paper entitled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2” (Proximal Origin), which concluded the lab-leak hypothesis was not “plausible.” LifeSiteNews has previously reported that Fauci himself had previously unknown input into the final draft.

The Examiner’s review found that, from 2020 to 2022, research projects led by Andersen and Garry received $25.2 million in NIH grants.

“Since changing their tune and publicly dismissing a potential lab leak following secretive conversations with Anthony Fauci, Garry and Andersen have received tens of millions in new taxpayer funds from the NIAID for wasteful, deadly, and dangerous virus experiments on primates and other animals,” Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, told the Examiner. “Given all of the waste, fraud and abuse we’ve exposed at NIAID since early 2020, it wouldn’t be surprising if gain-of-function’s ‘funding father’ Anthony Fauci was rewarding his fellow animal experimenters for their compliance and complicity in covering up what really happened at the Wuhan lab.”

Publicly, the lab leak theory was widely mocked and dismissed ever since Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas floated it in February 2020, and for months any suggestion of it was condemned as misinformation. It was not until mid-2021 that mainstream media outlets began to acknowledge it as a possibility.

Fauci has been a focal point for the question given his role in supporting the research that may have eventually led to COVID by approved funding for medical non-government organization EcoHealth Alliance to explore gain-of-function (GOF) research, which entails intentionally strengthening viruses to better study their potential effects, on coronaviruses, at several sites, including the Wuhan Institute of Virulogy.

Fauci and his defenders insisted that the work NIAID approved was not gain-of-function research and could not have led to COVID, but in January 2022 the conservative investigators of Project Veritas released documents they obtained showing that, before going to NIAID, EcoHealth previously pitched its funding request to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which rejected it on the grounds that the project would violate a preexisting moratorium on GOF research and failed to account for its potential risks.

Since then, leaked emails have revealed that Fauci, Collins, and other top researchers were aware of the lab-leak possibility as early as February 2020 but feared publicly acknowledging it would impair “science and international harmony.” More recently, The Wall Street Journal reported a “classified intelligence report” that was “recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress” reveals that DOE has, with “low confidence,” concluded the virus most likely spread after escaping from a Chinese lab, based on unspecified new intelligence, review of academic literature, and expert opinion.

Andrew Huff, a former Army infantryman in Iraq, research fellow in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and vice president-turned-whistleblower for EcoHealth, has also attested that COVID-19’s origins trace back to U.S. federal funding overseen by Fauci and the federal government.