House Energy and Commerce Committee 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 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, the fifth comprehensive inquiry as a part of the investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
During the U.S. gain-of-function (GOF) pause, undisclosed correspondence between NIH and EcoHealth Alliance now reveal that NIH was concerned it was funding such risky research:
- In May 2016 – in response to EcoHealth Alliance’s Year Two progress report – NIH raised concerns that EcoHealth Alliance may have been conducting GOF research in the Wuhan lab.
- In June 2016 – in response to NIH’s concerns – EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak dismissed NIH’s concerns, asserting their experiments on chimeric viruses did not amount to GOF.
- Despite a clear warning from Dr. Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina, Dr. Zheng-Li Shi of the Wuhan lab, and others in their 2015 study that such research on chimeric viruses pose GOF concerns, NIH uncritically accepted Daszak’s self-assessment.
The Leaders also raise significant concerns about NIH’s oversight of the GOF research and lax treatment of EcoHealth Alliance:
- Dr. Christian Hassell, the Chair of the HHS P3CO review group, raised concerns that their GOF definition was far too narrow – likely resulting in potential GOF research – such as EcoHealth Alliance’s – avoiding necessary scrutiny.
- Neither EcoHealth Alliance nor NIAID’s assessments of EcoHealth Alliance’s risky experiments reflected the careful weighing of risks and benefits of the potential GOF research.
- EcoHealth Alliance violated the terms of their research grant, yet NIH’s lax oversight of the grant resulted in NIH allegedly not knowing of such violation for years.
- Even after NIH finally took action against EcoHealth Alliance and suspended their grant in 2020 – for which they notified EcoHealth Alliance that no additional funds would be provided to them – NIH improperly awarded EcoHealth Alliance an additional $369,819.
Unbelievably, since their 2020 suspension and refusal to cooperate with NIH oversight, EcoHealth Alliance has received more than $23.4 million in grant funding from the U.S. government.
The Leaders ask for responses to 18 questions be made by November 10, 2021, including:
- Does NIH plan to stop funding EcoHealth until it is compliant with NIH’s requests? If yes, please identify when you will notify EcoHealth. If not, why not?
- Does NIH plan to recover the money paid to EcoHealth on its suspended grant? If yes, please identify when you will notify EcoHealth. If not, why not?
- Please identify who authorized the $369,819 funding issued to EcoHealth on July 13, 2020, and the specific authority for this funding.
- Please provide all funded and denied grant applications, progress and final reports for all NIH grants awarded to EcoHealth Alliance as a prime or subgrant recipient in unredacted form.
- When did NIAID first learn that EcoHealth had conducted the humanized mice experiment proposed in 2016?