Breaking: Biden Administration Halts Wuhan Institute Funds over Failure to Provide Safety, Security Documents

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has suspended the Wuhan Institute of Virology's eligibility to receive federal funding after the lab failed to turn in requested documents about safety and security measures.

HHS issued a memo on Monday notifying the lab of its decision and warning that it is also seeking to permanently blacklist the lab from receiving future taxpayer funds. The lab hasn’t received funds from the National Institutes of Health since July 2020.

The lab can challenge the suspension and proposed debarment.

The move comes after the agency found in a review that began last September that the facility was not compliant with federal regulations. 

Wuhan has been at the center of investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. The U.S. Energy Department assessed that the pandemic most likely originated from a lab leak. The Energy Department, which oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, made its judgment with "low confidence," the Wall Street Journal previously reported.

A declassified intelligence report released in November 2021 revealed that the FBI concluded with "moderate confidence" that the pandemic began with a "laboratory accident" following a 90-day review ordered by President Biden.

Four other agencies and the National Intelligence Council assess with "low confidence" the pandemic was likely caused by natural transmission from an infected animal. Two other agencies, including the CIA, are undecided.

Several virology labs are located in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where bat coronaviruses were studied.

The lab has failed to share information about its biosafety practices and has resisted investigations into its safety and security protocol violations.

The Wuhan Institute received a sub-award of a 2014 NIH grant that was issued to EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based organization focused on preventing infectious diseases. The grant was for "understanding the risk of bat coronavirus emergence." EcoHealth Alliance also sent U.S. Agency for International Development funds to the lab.

EcoHealth Alliance attracted significant attention from Republican lawmakers during the pandemic because of its gain-of-function research, which involves extracting viruses from animals and engineering them in a lab to make them more transmissible or dangerous to humans. Two of EcoHealth's NIH grants involve gain-of-function research and enhanced potential pandemic research on coronaviruses.

The U.S government temporarily paused funding for gain-of-function research in 2014 due to concerns over biosafety and biosecurity. However, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases staff and EcoHealth leaders found loopholes to allow the nonprofit to continue its work infecting genetically-engineered mice with hybrid viruses until the pause was lifted in 2017.

Representative Guy Reschenthaler (R., Pa.) introduced legislation earlier this year that would ban federal funding for EcoHealth Alliance after the HHS inspector general released a report that found the NIH "did not effectively monitor or take timely action to address EcoHealth's compliance with some requirements."

The audit focused on three NIH awards to EcoHealth between fiscal years 2014 and 2021 totaling roughly $8 million, including $1.8 million in subawards to EcoHealth's eight subrecipients, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

"Although NIH and EcoHealth had established monitoring procedures, we found deficiencies in complying with those procedures limited NIH and EcoHealth's ability to effectively monitor Federal grant awards and subawards to understand the nature of the research conducted, identify potential problem areas, and take corrective action," the report found.

"Using its discretion, NIH did not refer the research to HHS for an outside review for enhanced potential pandemic pathogens (ePPPs) because it determined the research did not involve and was not reasonably anticipated to create, use, or transfer an ePPP," the report added. "However, NIH added a special term and condition in EcoHealth's awards and provided limited guidance on how EcoHealth should comply with that requirement."

The OIG concludes that NIH "missed opportunities to more effectively monitor research."

"With improved oversight, NIH may have been able to take more timely corrective actions to mitigate the inherent risks associated with this type of research," the report said.



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Biden Administration Halts Wuhan Institute Funds over Failure to Provide Safety, Security Documents

HHS warned that it is also seeking to permanently blacklist the lab from receiving future taxpayer ... READ MORE


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