Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.), joined by Select Subcommittee Republican lawmakers, called on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to launch an investigation to determine whether EcoHealth Alliance and its president, Peter Daszak, should be barred from receiving federal grants for unethical conduct. EcoHealth Alliance, a National Institutes of Health grantee, awarded taxpayer funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to conduct gain of function research on bat coronaviruses. EcoHealth Alliance and Daszak violated the grant terms and potentially engaged in a cover-up of the origins of COVID-19.
“We write to request that you direct the appropriate office(s) within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to investigate and determine whether EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. should be deemed ineligible and therefore excluded from receiving federal contracts and grants. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) documents provided to the House Oversight Committee Republicans and more recently the jarring exposé in Vanity Fair entitled “This Shouldn’t Happen:” Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy, EcoHealth and its principal, Dr. Peter Daszak, have at the very least acted in an unethical and noncompliant manner. Under what is referred to as the nonprocurement common rule, an individual or entity may be suspended or debarred for unethical conduct which affects the entity’s present responsibility to perform a grant or contract. EcoHealth and Dr. Daszak’s conduct likely meet this threshold,” wrote the Republican lawmakers.
In 2014, NIH awarded EcoHealth a $3.7 million grant to study bat coronaviruses. As early as 2016, EcoHealth and Dr. Daszak fell out of compliance with the grant terms when they failed to timely file an annual report. When they did file the report, it was clear that EcoHealth in collaboration with the WIV had engaged in gain of function research in violation of the federal moratorium. Dr. Daszak argued and bullied NIH into accepting his own definition of gain of function, shielded his work from NIH, and supported the WIV’s decision to take down their online database of virus sequences.
“Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and the Committee on Oversight and Reform request that HHS immediately commence to adjudicate EcoHealth and Dr. Daszak’s present responsibility, compliance with NIH’s grant requirements, and general integrity and ethics. Upon conclusion of that process, we request that you provide a briefing to Select Subcommittee staff including any findings and plans regarding suspension and/or debarment,” concluded the Republican lawmakers.
The letter to Secretary Becerra can be found here.