E&C Republicans Send Letter to GAO Requesting Technology Assessment to Identify Future Pandemic Origins

Washington, D.C. — Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA), sent a letter to the Comptroller General of the U.S. Gene Dodaro requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) technology assessment to prevent future pandemics and identify its origins.

The letter asks the GAO about technologies and approaches that are being used to identify and to attribute a microbial strain and how it may have formed, including whether or not it was engineered. The letter also inquires about “what challenges, including scientific and research gaps, exist in attributing pandemic microbial strains to their sources” and what policies may address this.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) released its global study of the origins of the COVID-19 virus on March 30, 2021. However, the WHO Director-General stated after the publication of the report that the conclusion that a lab leak is extremely unlikely has been too hastily made in the report and requires further investigation. We believe much remains to be done to better establish the origination of the virus—knowledge that will help to prevent future pandemics.”

The letter highlights the importance of the assessment and how it will be valuable to pandemic readiness.

“In an effort to create a faster and more transparent system for identifying and monitoring future disease outbreaks and be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly coordinated fashion, we ask that GAO conduct a technology assessment to address the following questions:

  • “What technologies or approaches are currently being used for the identification and forensic attribution of a pandemic microbial strain, and what are their strengths and limitations?”

  • “To what extent can these technologies or approaches determine whether a pandemic microbial strain originated from a laboratory, is naturally occurring, or was engineered?”

  • “What current or emerging technologies could be used to increase phylogenetic understanding of microbial strains and potentially estimate the time to the most recent common ancestor?”

  • “What challenges, including scientific and research gaps, exist in attributing pandemic microbial strains to their sources, and what policy options might help address these challenges?”

CLICK HERE to read the letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

CLICK HERE to read all about the investigation into the origins of COVID-19.