The National Institutes of Health has provoked an outcry in Congress by renewing a $2.3 million grant with EcoHealth Alliance to research bat coronaviruses, three years after the Trump administration terminated its contract over the COVID lab-leak theory.
Under terms of the four-year grant, EcoHealth has agreed not to subcontract work to China or perform “gain of function” research, the modification of viruses to make them more potent.
Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth, told DailyMail.com that the funding would be used purely for lab work and to analyze samples that were already collected and sequences at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China and other institutes worldwide.
The disclosure of the contract renewal is prompting opposition in Congress, including from Rep. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.
“It’s absolutely reckless that the NIH has renewed a grant for EcoHealth Alliance, given their negligence and the breach of their contract with the NIH on the coronavirus research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Mr. Griffith said in a statement. “It is now believed likely that COVID-19 was the result of a lab incident at the Wuhan Institute.”
He said EcoHealth Alliance “has not been contrite about their failures.”
“And even worse, they have refused to cooperate with Congress in our attempts to get information about the research they were doing at the Wuhan Institute,” Mr. Griffith said. “Until they can demonstrate a willingness to work with Congress to resolve outstanding questions and fulfill all of the terms of their federal contracts, paid for with American taxpayer dollars, all funding should remain suspended and no new contracts should be awarded.”
EcoHealth, based in New York City, had its contract with the federal government terminated in April 2020 by President Donald Trump, who backed allegations that the pandemic originated from a lab leak in Wuhan.
A Senate report last month concluded that two leaks from Chinese labs in the fall of 2019 were probably sources of the coronavirus’ spread among humans.
EcoHealth said the new agreement requires researchers to work outside of China and take steps to address concerns about the lack of proper safety procedures at WIH and its connection with the Chinese military.