Pfizer Officially Denies Doing Gain-Of-Function, BUT....
Clintonian Word Parsing Is A Dodge, Not A Response
While the public hooplah over Pfizer manager Jordon Walker’s casual admission to a Project Veritas investigative journalist that Pfizer is/has considered “mutating COVID” has faded from the forefront of public consciousness, the issues his verbal incontinences have raised are still very much an ongoing reality.
Jordon Walker merely said that quiet part out loud. He merely confirmed that this is what Big Pharma does—and you can be sure they are doing it with more than just SARS-CoV-2. This is what university researchers do. This is what Big Government does.
In response to the release of the Project Veritas video, Congressman Ronny Jackson (R-TX), sent a letter to Pfizer demanding answers.
“It was recently reported and there is mounting evidence that Pfizer has been performing gain-of-function research and conducting experiments intended to mutate the COVID-19 virus,” Jackson wrote.
“These reports state that Pfizer has been looking to mutate the virus in order to develop new vaccines to ensure there remains a steady cash flow into the company.
“If true, this is unbelievably unethical and concerning to imagine Pfizer would prioritize its profits over the safety of the American public by conducting such gain-of-function research and endangering the lives of the very people you propose to help,” he continued, noting American taxpayers assisted in the effort to get vaccines out quickly with the public-private partnerships via President Trump’s successful Operation Warp Speed.
Pfizer finally replied to Congressman Jackson last Thursday, February 23, and denied conducting any “gain-of-function” research, or performing any unethical/illegal experiments involving strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Pfizer responded to Jackson on February 23 with a letter signed by their vice president & COO of vaccine research, which was obtained by Breitbart News.
In the letter, Pfizer strongly denied that the company would engage in gain-of-function research.
From the letter itself:
As a global company whose mission is developing breakthroughs that improve patients’ lives, Pfizer conducts our research following stringent safety standards, including requirements for working with SARS-CoV-2. To be clear, we do not, and never would, engage in research to create or adapt viruses with the intention of making them more contagious or harmful to people.
From Pfizer’s perspective, surely this denial should be the end of the discussion. Unfortunately for Bourla, et al, the denial is but the beginning.
As a starting point, we have to note the Clintonian level of word-parsing at play here. A Pfizer denial that they are not engaging in research “to create or adapt viruses with the intention of making them more contagious or harmful to people” is qualitatively different from a denial that they are not engaging in research “to create or adapt viruses”—and necessarily so, because by Pfizer’s own admissions, both to the general public and to Congressman Jackson within this same letter, they are indeed creating and/or adapting SARS-CoV-2 viruses (emphasis mine).
When a new SARS-CoV-2 variant of interest or concern emerges and is identified by public surveillance systems and health authorities, Pfizer studies any changes in the spike protein to understand whether an update to the vaccine might be required. We do this by adapting the virus in a highly secure lab so that the spike protein matches the newly identified circulating variants. This is done to mimic viruses that are already circulating in nature. This type of work is scientific best practice and is commonly conducted by other companies, institutions and public health authorities. It is necessary both for assessing the effectiveness of existing vaccines and new vaccine candidates targeted at currently circulating variants. In fact, we developed the current bivalent vaccine as a result of this research. We submit key results of our variant research to government agencies and publish them for the scientific community.
This is the crux of their “non-denial denial”. What they are denying is not that they are adapting viruses, but that they are doing it with the specific intention of “making them more contagious or harmful to people.” Adapting viruses is perfectly fine and acceptable, you see, because it is “scientific best practice”—”best practice”1 being a four-dollar CYA term that amounts to “everyone else does it.”
We must acknowledge that Pfizer is substantially correct about virologists adapting viruses as a normal “best practice” research methodology. We know this to be true simply because of the number of reported instances of researchers recreationally splicing viruses together in a neverending quest for the Frankenvirus, such as the Boston University researchers who created a new hybrid strain of SARS-CoV-2.
We can take as factual the assertion that “everybody” does this sort of research, because Boston University was not alone in this.
Nor is SARS-CoV-2 the only virus being studied this way.
Yet that the virological research technique of modifying or adapting a known virus strain is a common research technique does not establish that it is an ethically proper research technique. Whether the practice involves what is specifically termed as “Gain Of Function” (GoF) is, I submit, not necessarily the point.
While GoF research is only part of the issue at hand, it nevertheless gives us an entry point into the ethical discussion, for the simple reason that it has been the focus of much ethical debate over the past decade, including various efforts to weigh the risks of such research against the putative benefits.
One of the larger explorations of GoF research came 2014, when the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council organized two-day symposium2 as part of a larger government-sponsored process to assess the bioethics of GoF research.
Convened in December 2014 by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, the main focus of this event was to discuss principles important for, and key considerations in, the design of risk and benefit assessments of GOF research. Participants examined the underlying scientific and technical questions that are the source of current discussion and debate over GOF research involving pathogens with pandemic potential. This report is a record of the presentations and discussion of the meeting.
The primary argument for GoF research3—and indeed for all research involving the artificial adaptation of known viruses as part of specific research experiments—is, of course, the quest for knowledge about viruses and how they function in the body.
Research using Gain-of-Function (GoF) techniques is no different with respect to what it can achieve in the long term, at least according to many of the symposium participants. Atlas noted that, although there was no attempt to achieve a consensus, no disagreement was voiced to the repeated claims of various presenters that in the short term GoF research is helpful for adapting viruses to growth in culture and for developing essential animal models for emerging pathogens, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and escape mutations to understand drug resistance and viral evasion of the immune system.
A key aspect of the knowledge presumably gained is the risks associated with specific viral attributes4.
Schultz-Cherry noted that GoF research-derived information is also used for risk assessment. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a risk assessment tool, the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool, to rank the risk associated with particular viruses. She stated that the result of using the Tool is not a prediction of the next pandemic, but rather an objective means of prioritizing viruses for future risk management. The Tool looks at the properties of a virus. What kind of receptors does it bind to? Is it more mammalian or avian? Does it transmit in animal models, or does it have molecular signatures that would suggest transmissibility? What is its genomic variation? She stated that all of this information, especially the molecular determinants of transmissibility, has been generated through GoF studies at some point, perhaps even as far back as the 1970s. She stated that the ability to prioritize is important because of limited resources; vaccines cannot be made for every new emerging virus.
These bits of knowledge, if in fact realized, are legitimate benefits. However, there are indisputably significant limitations5 to this mode of viral research which renders problematic the knowledge putatively gained. The most significant limitation is the inability to extrapolate much from lab-created pathogens to understanding naturally occuring ones.
Schultz-Cherry's final points dealt with the limitations of these studies. Phenotype still cannot be predicted from genotype. We may know a lot from studies of particular amino acid changes in one strain of virus that may not apply to another strain. She noted that opponents of GoF research have said that this is a reason to not continue this work. She would argue, however, that inability to predict phenotype is precisely why GoF studies must continue so that eventually this inability can be overcome.
Simply put, artificially created viruses reveal less about naturally occuring viruses than many virologists are willing to admit. This alone limits the practical utility of such research.
Moreover, this limitation arises when a virus is modified in the lab—which means it necessarily applies to all modifications, whether or not they qualify as “Gain Of Function”.
We see this limitation on stark display with the mRNA inoculations but also with Pfizer’s alternative to inoculation, Paxlovid.
Pfizer’s own clinical trial data for Paxlovid indicated last summer that the drug was of little benefit to anyone not at risk for severe COVID (potentially requiring hospitalization).
Paxlovid, a drug that was anointed as America's silver bullet against COVID-19 by some health officials and even President Joe Biden, may not have any effectiveness for people that are already vaccinated according to new data revealed by Pfizer.
In all instances, the use of Paxlovid carries with it significant potential for “rebound infection”—where the disease simply reactivates within the body once the course of treatment is completed.
It would be an extravagance to say Paxlovid’s documented failures as a therapeutic are attributable to the questionable research technique of relying on lab-modified viruses instead of working with strains actually circulating in nature. However, Paxlovid’s documented failures as a therapeutic—and Pfizer’s reliance on lab-modified viruses in testing Paxlovid—demonstrate that the research technique is questionable. When the rubber met the road, Paxlovid failed, and thus all the methods used in developing Paxlovid must be questioned in order to properly account for that failure.
Additionally, the mRNA inoculations themselves are predicated on the utility of lab modifications to a virus. By definition they involve grafting a particular genetic sequence into an RNA strand, so that the RNA strand can leverage cellular replication mechanisms to reproduce the infamous “spike protein” and thereby trigger antibody production.
That the inoculation have been a failure has been amply shown by the raw epidemiological evidence.
It is a stated fact that the mainstream media has touted mass vaccination as the ultimate answer to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is an empirical fact that the data shows the mainstream media to be completely wrong. The COVID-19 vaccinations have not returned us to our pre-pandemic “normal.” They have not even come close. There is no indication in the data to suggest they ever will.
Despite the insistence of “experts” on the narrative that the inoculations prevented illness, COVID was still able to infect individuals and continued to spread even in countries with significant inoculation uptake.
Even more damning for the mRNA inoculations are the recent studies indicating that natural immunity confers superior protection to COVID than the inoculations.
So complete has been the failure of the mRNA inoculations that even their advocates acknowledged there was little point to their continued use in the form of “booster” shots.
In the face of this study showing the effectiveness of natural immunity, even the “experts” are hard pressed to push for more inoculations and recurring boosters.
It may be reasonable for people with healthy immune systems to stretch that out a little bit more, to six months, as the immune response continues to develop, said Deepta Bhattacharya, a professor of immunobiology at the University of Arizona
Dr. Bob Wachter, the chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco gave a similar assessment.
“If you are thinking about getting a booster, it’s a perfectly reasonable call to look at this and say I’ll wait six or eight months before getting my booster,” Wachter said. “That’s a reasonable conclusion from looking at the study.”
Grafting bits of genetic material into a messenger RNA strand, then injecting that into a human host to stimulate antibody production produced immune responses that even “the Science™” now admits are inferior to exposure to the entire SARS-CoV-2 virus. With that realization in hand, surely we must be prudentially skeptical of virological research techniques involving lab-modified strains—involving grafting bits of genetic material into a viral genome and using that as a stand-in for naturally occuring virus.
The one clear takeaway from the failure of the mRNA inoculations is that virologists have much less understanding of how viruses behave than they are wont to admit. While Pfizer may claim that lab-modified viruses are a research “best practice”, the results demonstrate a vastly different reality. As with Paxlovid, the failure of the mRNA inoculations calls all the research methods involved in their creation into question.
The claimed knowledge achieved by studying lab-modified viruses, based on what we have seen from the research community regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is questionable at best. At a minimum, this supposed knowledge has not translated into effective vaccines and therapeutics.
With the benefits of such research techniques already fairly called into question, the threshold for what constitutes unacceptable risk from those techniques is lowered considerably—and there are risks, despite Pfizer’s protestations to the contrary.
As Dr. David Relman conceded in a presentation at the 2014 symposium6, the principal risk is one of unforeseen consequences.
He stated that he saw a major difference between deliberately creating agents that are not now believed to exist in nature with these combinations of properties as opposed to research to understand properties that have arisen naturally for particular viruses. He commented that he took to heart the comments that had been made about the importance of being proactive, that he absolutely ascribed to its importance in doing good science, and that he recognized that GoF can result from knockout mutations.
Taken in toto, the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic arguably is an object lesson in unforeseen consequences.
Most notably, we are faced with the probability that the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged from a biolab.
We should note that the “lab leak” theory gained yet another convert recently, as the Wall Street Journal has reported that the US Department of Energy—which administers a number of research facilities, several of which conduct biological research—has revised its assessment of the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and now concludes that it emerged from a biolab in Wuhan China.
The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.
The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.
One interesting side note: Dr. David Relman, a presenter at the 2014 GoF symposium cited herein, appears to regard the DoE’s updated assessment credibly.
“Kudos to those who are willing to set aside their preconceptions and objectively re-examine what we know and don’t know about Covid origins,” said Dr. Relman, who has served on several federal scientific-advisory boards. “My plea is that we not accept an incomplete answer or give up because of political expediency.”
Yet even the primary medical response to the pandemic—i.e., the mRNA inoculations—have themselves been fraught with unforeseen (and undeniably dangerous and deadly) consequences. Not the least of these consequences has been a likely correlation between the inoculations and a general rise in disabilities within the labor force in the United States.
Those are in addition to the innumerable safety signals both concealed and ignored by the CDC surrounding the mRNA inoculations.
Given the many ways biomedical research has gone far off the rails regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it simply is no longer a prudent course to presume the risks of unforeseen consequences from virological research are either unlikely or inconsequential.
Given the problematic nature of the knowledge gained from lab-created viruses, it is fatuous to blithely presume such risks are acceptable. Rather, the default supposition rationally should be that they are unacceptable—all the more so because they are, ultimately, largely unnecessary, as Dr. Relman acknowledged at the 2014 symposium7.
Relman also stated that, in almost every case, other experimental approaches will provide the knowledge that scientists agree is critical and many of the benefits that they agree are needed without necessarily undertaking this very small subset of experiments to create the specific agents with these combined properties.
Lab-created and lab-adapted pathogens represent a significant potential danger, they provide virological knowledge of questionable utility, and there are alternatives to their use in virological research.
This is where Pfizer is simply missing the point. The scandal from Jordon Walker’s verbal incontinences is not some implication that Pfizer is concocting a coronavirus superbug which could escape to infect the world, in the manner of horror films such as “28 Days Later” and the “Resident Evil” film franchise. Rather, the scandal is that Jordon Walker conveys Pfizer’s corporate casual contempt for the very possibility of unforeseen consequences with their research.
As Pfizer’s response to Congressman Jackson demonstrates, the casual contempt Jordan Walker showed is emblematic of Pfizer’s entire corporate culture. They simply do not give a damn about the consequences, and whether they are motivated solely by profit or simply believe they know better than everyone else is, ultimately, irrelevant. Regardless of motivation, their lack of appreciation for the dangers of unforeseen consequences in virological research is condemnable. Such attitudes must never be accepted as any part of a medical or pharmaceutical status quo.
The great danger from Pfizer’s chosen research modalities is not that they will create the next great plague. The great danger is that Pfizer truly has neither comprehension of nor concern for what they will create, or what the results would be if their creation leaked out of their labs to infect the world. They do not know the results, and neither do we—and the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as the mRNA inoculations prove that what we don’t know can quite easily kill us.
Post-COVID, the world can no longer be naively trusting of biological researchers. We are required, due to researchers’ multiple failings in both their science and their ethics, to be extremely skeptical and even distrustful of their research activities.
In their letter to Congressman Jackson, Pfizer proved conclusively they do not grasp that reality at all.
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The term “best practice” does have a specific meaning found in Merriam-Webster, and it is a term commonly used in several scientific and technical professions. While in principle best practices are exactly that—the “best” methodologies for a conducting a particular activity—in reality many of them arise “organically”, and thus are little more than a convergent opinion on methods. Moreover, there are so many “best practices” involving COVID-19 research that Cambridge University Press issued a special publication just to address them all. Thus the term should always be taken with several grains of salt.
Board on Life Sciences, et al. Potential Risks and Benefits of Gain-of-Function Research: Summary of a Workshop. National Academies Press (US), 13 April 2015. doi:10.17226/21666