GOP House Members Pose Questions to NIH Over US Nonprofit That Helped Fund Wuhan Lab

GOP House Members Pose Questions to NIH Over US Nonprofit That Helped Fund Wuhan Lab
The P4 laboratory building at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is shown in Wuhan, China, on May 13, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

A group of Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on June 10 sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), asking for information that would assist a probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking Republican on the panel, was joined by 25 other Republican lawmakers in signing a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins, asking for reports and documents related to EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), which channeled money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) for the purpose of “understanding the risk of bat coronavirus emergence.”

WIV is located in the same city where the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, is believed to have first emerged.

According to internal emails from NIH officials and an office inside the agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) which is led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the agencies sent a total of $826,777 between fiscal years 2014 and 2019 to the New York-based medical research nonprofit group.

The total amount is different from the amount that Fauci told members of Congress the Wuhan lab received from the U.S. government.

“The Chinese Communist government has not yet allowed Chinese scientists to cooperate with an investigation into COVID-19 origins, and has admitted to destroying samples and records pertinent to such an investigation,” the lawmakers wrote. "Thus, it is imperative we assemble all data and information in U.S. possession about bat coronavirus research experiments and lab safety protocols from all sources outside of China, particularly from EcoHealth Alliance (EHA).”

The lawmakers noted that EHA is an NIH grantee who has been involved in bat coronavirus research in China and has issued grant sub-awards to the WIV.

“It is also essential to collect information about the WIV, the laboratory that was conducting bat coronavirus experiments located in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak,” they wrote.

The letter emphasizes that NIH is in a unique position to share publicly detailed research reports in its possession, as it is a federal cognizant grant-making agency that funded bat coronavirus research at the WIV through EHA awards.

“Importantly, NIH has full access to EHA records and EHA has refused to cooperate with our inquiry,” the Republicans added. “Therefore, it is critical for NIH to cooperate with our objective fact-finding investigation as we continue to collect data about U.S. funded bat coronavirus research.”

It comes as the hypothesis that the CCP virus could have been artificially or deliberately manipulated at China’s WIV receives wider recognition.

Early reports about an outbreak of the CCP virus first appeared in Wuhan in late 2019, when a cluster of cases was reported by state-controlled media to be linked to a local wet market. More than a year later, the origins of the virus remain unknown, although the possibility that the virus leaked from a laboratory at China’s WIV is gaining traction.

The Wall Street Journal reported on May 23 that three researchers at the WIV were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with seasonal flu and COVID-19. The newspaper cited unnamed U.S. government sources familiar with a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.

President Joe Biden has ordered the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to ramp up efforts to investigate the virus’s origins.

The Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have given the NIH a deadline of June 24 to answer its latest questions, as well as those it posed in a letter dated March 18.