The EcoHealth Alliance’s grant has been reinstated, but the NIH’s conditions for reinstatement have not been met.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reinstated a grant that had been terminated by President Donald Trump in April 2020. However, a document first obtained by the House Oversight Committee reveals that the NIH’s conditions for reinstatement have not been met.
The grant, titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” was originally awarded in 2014 by Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Under the terms of the grant, EcoHealth Alliance, a government-funded nonprofit that purportedly engages in research to prevent pandemics, was awarded $3.8 million over five years to assess the spillover potential of bat viruses “using reverse genetics, pseudovirus and receptor binding assays, and virus infection experiments in cell culture and humanized mice.” Put in simple terms, NIAID was paying EcoHealth to genetically engineer and manipulate bat viruses in labs.
In May 2016, the grant was suspended after Erik Stemmy, a NIAID program officer, noticed that federal government funds may have been used for prohibited gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China. At the time, the Obama administration had put in place a moratorium on gain-of-function experiments. However, for reasons that remain unclear, the suspension was lifted in July 2016. At the time, EcoHealth’s president, Peter Daszak, thanked NIAID in an email for lifting the gain-of-function funding pause.
As part of the conditions of the grant, EcoHealth had to file regular activity reports. However, starting in 2018, EcoHealth stopped submitting these reports. EcoHealth would later blame technical difficulties for their failure to submit. The missing reports comprised the critical 2018–2019 timeframe right before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan.
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Despite EcoHealth’s delinquency in filing the status reports, NIAID did not stop funding the project. It was only after a Freedom of Information Act request for the reports was filed in 2021 that EcoHealth was prompted by NIAID to provide the reports. The reports, which were finally submitted by EcoHealth at least two years too late, in 2021, revealed that the NIAID grant had been used by EcoHealth and the WIV in part to create laboratory-engineered bat viruses. Had this fact been reported in a timely manner, the experiments would likely have been shut down by NIAID.
The NIH has restarted the ‘Bat Virus Grant’ to Peter Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit research organization in New York City, which is a new 4-year grant that represents a stripped-down version of the original grant.