HHS suspends funding for EcoHealth Alliance virus research group that funded gain of function research in Wuhan
05/21/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is suspending all funds and grants allocated to the controversial firm EcoHealth Alliance with immediate effect, and its transgressions are so serious the agency has also proposed a formal debarment.

The virus research group used taxpayer funds to carry out banned gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is widely believed to be the source of the COVID-19 virus, before the pandemic broke out. The decision was based on evidence that was included in a staff-level report about EcoHealth Alliance from the House COVID Subcommittee.

HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisitions Katrina Brisbon wrote in a letter that they had “adequate evidence” supporting the move, adding that “immediate action is necessary to protect the public interest.”

The agency reported that EcoHealth Alliance not only failed to adequately monitor the work it supported at the lab but also failed to properly report the results of experiments indicating the viruses it created had magnified capabilities of infecting human cells.

EcoHealth Alliance is known to have received millions of dollars’ worth of grants from the National Institutes of Health, and these American taxpayer funds ended up in the hands of Chinese entities that were carrying out coronavirus research through EcoHealth Alliance.

More than $600,000 made its way to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for research into the transmission of coronaviruses from bats to humans, which included DNA sequencing, RNA extractions, and biological experiments on pathogen spillover between bats and humans. A further $200,000 was redirected to Wuhan University for disease surveillance research that entailed collecting biological samples from Chinese people who had a high degree of bat exposure.

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These funds were not approved to be used for gain-of-function research, a highly controversial research method that entails modifying viruses to make them more infectious to humans. HHS says that EcoHealth Alliance violated the terms of its multimillion-dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Brisbon reported that the NIH gave EcoHealth several opportunities to prove they had not been carrying out this type of research but they “failed to do so.” Her letter also noted that their research “likely violated protocols of the NIH regarding biosafety.”

EcoHealth Alliance supported controversial gain-of-function research linked to the pandemic

The chairman of the House COVID Subcommittee, Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), said: "EcoHealth Alliance and [EcoHealth President] Dr. Peter Daszak should never again receive a single penny from the U.S. taxpayer. EcoHealth facilitated gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China, without proper oversight, willingly violated multiple requirements of its multimillion-dollar National Institutes of Health Grant and apparently made false statements to the NIH."

Rutgers University Molecular Biologist Dr. Richard Ebright told the New York Post: “EcoHealth Alliance provably defrauded the U.S. government, provably breached contractual terms of U.S.-government grants, and, through the reckless gain-of-function research it conducted in Wuhan, probably caused the COVID-19 pandemic, killing 20 million and costing $25 trillion.”

He added that the U.S. government officials who helped EcoHealth and covered up their actions should be held accountable.

A spokesperson for EcoHealth Alliance said in a statement that they were “disappointed” by the decision and would be contesting the debarment.

While many people who suggested early on that the pandemic stemmed from a lab leak were targets of smear campaigns, it has since emerged that this is the most likely origin of the virus. Although China has denied playing a role, U.S. State Department records indicate that the virus emerged from a “lab-related accident” and that the Chinese Communist Party attempted to cover it up.

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