by Gabrielle M Etzel at Washington Examiner
The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday issued a notice barring the Wuhan Institute of Virology from federal funding for 10 years due to conducting experiments with high potential for dangerous public health consequences.
“[T]he [National Institutes of Health] determined that the WIV may have conducted an experiment yielding a level of viral activity which was greater than permitted under the terms of the grant … which possibly did lead or could lead to health issues or other unacceptable outcomes,” the agency said in a letter sent on Wednesday to WIV Director General Yanyi Wang.
Researchers at the WIV received U.S. federal funding between 2014 and 2020 through a grant project between the NIH and the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization.
A declassified report released earlier this summer from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence explained that the illness of three WIV lab workers in late 2019 was likely unrelated to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report found that “some of their symptoms” were consistent with COVID-19, but they were ultimately “not diagnostic” of the virus.
In connection with the incident, the NIH requested documentation regarding potential risks of “viral activity in violation of the grant” in November 2021 and January 2022 but received no response.
The debarment was effective starting on July 17 when HHS officials first attempted to send notice of formal fiscal suspension. Emailed notifications to addresses on the WIV’s English webpage, however, received undeliverable errors. The lack of ability to communicate with WIV officials was deemed an “aggravating factor” by HHS, adding to the determination to increase debarment to 10 years from the standard three years.
“The Wuhan Institute of Virology should not receive another cent of U.S. taxpayer funding,” said House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), whose committee has pressed both the NIH and HHS regarding funding of the WIV.
“After years of conducting dangerous gain-of-function research at inadequate biosafety levels, cutting off all American taxpayer dollars from the WIV is an essential and obvious step in the right direction,” Wenstrup said. “This is especially timely as mounting evidence and intelligence continue to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory failure in Wuhan.”
It has been a matter of controversy whether WIV engaged in “gain of function research” funded by EcoHealth Alliance. In a statement provided to the Washington Examiner, a spokesperson for EcoHealth Alliance disputed that it has funded such research:…Continue Reading