Writer: Fauci, Paul clash shouldn't distract from probe into COVID-19 origins

Freelance commentary writer Drew Holden maintained Thursday that a high-profile clash between Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment Masks and vaccines: What price freedom? MORE (R-Ky.) and top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Journalist Zaid Jilani describes removal of animal rights ad that criticizes Fauci Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE over government-funded research in Wuhan, China, should not district from the need to probe the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holden in an interview on Hill.TV's "Rising" reflected on the tense exchange between Fauci and Paul earlier this week when Paul accused the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of funding illegal "gain-of-function" research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that was used to create a transmissible virus able to infect humans.

Gain-of-function refers to the controversial practice in which researchers develop a pathogen that is more infectious in order to help make treatments and vaccines more effective. 

Fauci has repeatedly denied the accusation, saying during Tuesday's hearing that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

Holden said that regardless of whether the Wuhan research that was awarded a subgrant from NIH met the agency's definition of “gain-of-function,” health experts should still work to “get to the truth of the matter of how the coronavirus pandemic started.” 

“Up until about January of 2021, the very idea that the coronavirus pandemic could have started from a lab somewhere in Wuhan, China, was a conspiracy theory,” he said. “Even the Biden administration now, despite having written it off as a conspiracy theory originally, is saying, ‘Yeah we should probably get to the bottom of this thing.’”

Watch part of Holden’s interview above.