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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) this week reinstated a controversial federal grant to EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk of bat coronavirus spillover.
EcoHealth is a New York-based nonprofit whose stated mission is to develop “science-based solutions to prevent pandemics and promote conservation.”
In 2014, EcoHealth received $3.7 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to study the risk of bat coronavirus emergence and the potential for outbreaks in human populations — research that included genetically manipulating coronaviruses to make them more infectious to humans.
At the time, Dr. Anthony Fauci was the director of the NIAID, which operates under the NIH.
Nearly $600,000 of the $3.7 million went to EcoHealth’s collaborator, the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
However, in April 2020, under the Trump administration, the NIH terminated EcoHealth’s grant over concerns the organization had violated the grant terms, using U.S. taxpayer money to fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.
EcoHealth on Monday announced that the NIH reinstated the grant, but with new terms, and that EcoHealth will collaborate with the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School to study zoonotic coronaviruses “with the aim of being transparent about the study’s goals.”
Peter Daszak, Ph.D. — who secretly collaborated with Ralph Baric, Ph.D., and Fauci to steer the media and scientific community away from questions about whether COVID-19 could have originated in a lab — is EcoHealth’s executive director and principal investigator on the grant.
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that found multiple serious violations by EcoHealth of the contractual terms and conditions of the 2014 NIH grant, said the decision to reinstate the grant was “absolutely reckless,” given the organization’s “negligence and breach of their contract with the NIH on the coronavirus research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).”
Francis Boyle, J.D., Ph.D., bioweapons expert and professor of international law at the University of Illinois, told The Defender he wasn’t surprised to see the grant reinstated.
“People involved in this, like EcoHealth Alliance, Fauci, the Biden administration, et cetera, know they have crossed the Rubicon and there is no turning back. And they don’t intend to turn back unless and until we stop them. It’s as simple as that,” he added.
Boyle, who authored the Biological Weapons Convention known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 that was approved unanimously by both houses of the U.S. Congress and signed to law by President George Bush Sr., also added:
“Clearly, all this gain-of-function work is offensive biological warfare weapons work in violation of the convention and my biological weapons anti-terrorism act, the penalty for which is life imprisonment.”
In January, the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report outlining missed deadlines, confusing protocols and misspent funds in EcoHealth Alliance’s grant management, particularly as it related to the Wuhan lab.
In response, HHS set new terms for the four-year, now-$2.9 million NIAID grant, under which EcoHealth will receive $576,290 this year.
Under the new terms, EcoHealth is barred from conducting any research in China or collecting any new samples from vertebrates and must implement additional oversight of its finances and accounting practices.
The conditions also prevent EcoHealth from doing any work “involving enhanced potential pandemic pathogens,” although the organization can continue to work with “highly pathogenic agents” or “infectious agent[s] or toxin[s]” that may warrant a biocontainment safety level (BSL) of 3 or higher. The Wuhan lab was a BSL-4 lab.
EcoHealth is the recipient of 17 active U.S. government grants totaling more than $50 million, The Epoch Times reported.
Publications like Nature and Science celebrated the reinstatement of the grant. Nature said the research was “essential for preventing the next pandemic.”
Science wrote that the Trump administration called for the cancellation of the grant, “amid unsupported allegations that a lab leak at WIV started the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The origins of the COVID-19 virus continue to be debated, but evidence has emerged over the past several years that the “lab-leak theory” is a plausible hypothesis despite attempts to dismiss it.
Several U.S. agencies, former agency officials and independent scientists have concluded that a Wuhan lab leak most likely caused the COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S. Department of Energy report released in February and a Senate report released in April both arrived at the conclusion that COVID-19 likely stemmed from a lab leak.