Two top House Republicans launched the first congressional investigation into the Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) failure to review grants of American tax dollars funding bat coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher demanded answers in a letter to HHS Senior Science Adviser David Hassell surrounding the circumstances of the agency’s failure to give a second look at a $600,000 annual five-year grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology conducting bat coronavirus research from 2014 to 2019.
“There is mounting evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic may have originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology with research on bat coronaviruses partially funded by EcoHealth’s grant,” they wrote, as the Wall Street Journal last month narrated the stories of three lab researchers who sought hospital care with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, just weeks preceding the pandemic’s first outbreak.
The timeline contradicts the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) claim that the first illness from COVID-19 was reported on Dec. 8 the same year.
“The Trump Administration was rightly concerned enough about the EcoHealth grants that it directed the NIH to terminate funding in April 2020,” Jordan and Gallagher wrote. “But questions still remain about how the U.S. government could use taxpayer dollars to fund research on dangerous pathogens at the Chinese lab with known safety deficiencies.”
In fact, U.S. diplomats warned of safety issues in 2018, saying the lab’s work studying the transmission of bat coronaviruses to humans could spark another SARS pandemic.
Part of the lab’s research focused on “gain of function research,” a method of proactive pandemic preparedness wherein scientists extract viruses from the wild and engineer them to infect humans in order to study potential therapeutics, including vaccines. The research is so dangerous the U.S. government banned its funding in 2014, while HHS developed protocols to evaluate grant proposals. The moratorium on gain of function research funding was lifted in 2017.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology, however, continued to benefit from taxpayer dollars during the three years the U.S. moratorium on gain of function was in place. EcoHealth Alliance, the recipient of grant money from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), run by Dr. Anthony Fauci, funded the study of bat coronavirus transmission to humans in Wuhan. According to the Daily Caller, the oversight board created to scrutinize such high-risk research did not review the grant.
The NIAID, a sub-agency of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), chose to keep the Potential Pandemic Pathogens Control and Oversight Framework review board in the dark by concluding the research failed to meet the definition for “gain of function.”
“After careful review of the grant, NIAID determined research in the grant was not gain-of-function research because it did not involve the enhancement of the pathogenicity or transmissibility of the viruses studied,” an NIH spokesman told the Daily Caller News Foundation in April.
Fauci meanwhile has vehemently denied the research funded by his agency was involved in gain of function research after spending months dismissing the lab-leak theory to explain the origins of the novel coronavirus as a conspiracy theory. In 2012, Fauci once defended the research as worth the risk of a pandemic.
A treasure trove of emails made public from a Freedom of Information Act request by BuzzFeed News this week has revealed a defensive Fauci who blew off those who wrote to him that the coronavirus may have escaped from the lab in Wuhan, where the Chinese government has refused a thorough transparent investigation.
Here's a Feb 21, 2020 email to Fauci from a Weill Cornell Medical College associate professor of dermatology who wrote: "we think that there is a possibility that the virus was released from a lab in wuhan, the biotech area of china"
Fauci fwds to a colleague: "please handle" pic.twitter.com/ZjIZztCNU1
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) June 1, 2021
While Fauci was dispelling the lab theory in the press, Dr. Peter Daszak, who ran EcoHealth, which funded the coronavirus research in Wuhan, thanked the White House coronavirus task force member in April for throwing cold water on the lab-leak theory.
Peter Daszak, who was deeply involved both in Wuhan coronavirus research & in misleading the public about the likelihood of a lab leak, thanked Fauci for helping "dispel the myths" around COVID origins and blamed Fox News for targeting his grant. From the @JasonLeopold FOIA batch pic.twitter.com/LgloFVaFZX
— Sarah Westwood (@sarahcwestwood) June 1, 2021