New documents seemingly linked the U.S. government to the controversial coronavirus research conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. This was after Congress mandated the declassification of information related to the pandemic's origin and the Wuhan laboratory by Sunday, June 18.

According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the transparency advocacy organization White Coat Waste Project, one of the first Wuhan researchers reportedly sickened with COVID-19 in fall 2019, Ben Hu, was receiving U.S. financial support for risky gain-of-function research on coronaviruses.

The funding, totaling $41 million, was provided through grants from USAID and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci at the time. Hu was listed as an investigator on these grants, per the White Coat Waste Project.

The revelation that three Wuhan Institute of Virology lab workers had been hospitalized with COVID symptoms in November 2019, before the outbreak at the city's seafood market, was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in May 2021. However, this information had little impact on the broader debate over the origin of the pandemic.

Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi, sourcing three government sources familiar with a State Department investigation, have identified the three lab workers who first contracted SARS-CoV-2 as Ben Hu, Ping Yu and Yan Zhu. They were reportedly conducting "gain-of-function" experiments to enhance the virus' infectiousness and gain a better understanding of its risks, as disclosed by several U.S. government officials.

The NIAID and USAID grants confirm Hu's involvement as an investigator in the projects being funded. Hu is a deputy to Shi Zhengli, known as "batwoman" for her work on extracting virus samples from bats in Chinese caves. The FOIA documents obtained by White Coat Waste Project in 2021 have gained new relevance with the reporting on Hu's involvement.

The Times of London also recently reported new details, sourced to three investigators with the U.S. State Department, about activity in the Wuhan Institute of Virology before the pandemic. The outlet detailed the allegations of collaboration between the Wuhan labs and Chinese military scientists, supporting the previously dismissed theory that the virus was connected to bioweapons research.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology frequently collaborated with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, a research arm of the People's Liberation Army, and military scientists were listed as working for the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology.

The Times investigation focused on a virus found in a mine where workers fell ill in 2012, leading to hospitalizations and deaths. Another key question investigated by the State Department related to a project proposed to the Pentagon by Shi Zhengli, Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina and Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance.

The proposal involved the insertion of a furin cleavage site into a coronavirus, but it was reportedly rejected.

However, U.S. scientists, who worked alongside their counterparts at the Wuhan lab, have allegedly acknowledged the insertion of "furin cleavage sites" into SARS-like viruses in 2019, which is believed to have contributed to COVID-19's heightened transmissibility.

The significance of Ben Hu receiving U.S. funding from NIH and USAID in 2018-2019 lies in the potential direct funding of the insertion of furin cleavage site sequences into SARS-like coronaviruses, as proposed in EcoHealth's/WIV's unsuccessful 2018 DARPA grant application. Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist and laboratory director, emphasized the importance of this finding via The Intercept.