A Round of GOF

A laboratory technician works with a pipette at the Institute of Virology at the Charité Berlin Mitte in Berlin in January 2020, during investigations on coronaviruses. (Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic began wading into a sea of acronyms in its first hearing Wednesday as part of its dauntingly broad charge to investigate “the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic, including but not limited to the Federal Government’s funding of gain-of-function research.”

Although a select subcommittee on COVID has existed under the auspices of the House Oversight Committee since April 2020, this is the first time it’s been led by Republicans—and gain-of-function (GOF) research is one of the topics they want to highlight.

The previous Democratic majority on the subcommittee “stifled every attempt that we had to do our own oversight,” a Republican aide told The Dispatch. “They didn’t sign on or join any of our origins or gain-of-function requests. … They were particularly one-sided and only focused on the Trump administration.”

Congressional oversight is invariably tinged with partisanship regardless of who is in charge, and Wednesday’s hearing was no exception. But as the murky origins of the virus remain under intense scrutiny, the GOF research issues Republicans are raising are both important to the public and widely misunderstood.

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