The Biden administration is set to withhold funding to the Wuhan research facility at the center of intense scrutiny regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
About the funding ban: On Tuesday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic unveiled a memo that revealed the government’s plans to impose a 10-year funding ban on the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
The memo, written by an official in the Department of Health and Human Services, highlighted the Chinese facility’s failure to submit laboratory notes and other documents required to verify its safety practices to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) despite repeated requests.
The official further noted that the decision to suspend funding was due to the NIH’s conclusion that the Wuhan Institute “likely violated protocols of the N.I.H. regarding biosafety.” The memo also emphasized the necessity to “mitigate any potential public health risk” and stated that there was “adequate evidence” to conduct “debarment proceedings.”
COVID-19 origins debate: Federal funding to the Wuhan Institute was ceased in April 2020 before being reinstated in July the same year. The institution now has 30 days to address the memo. The funding suspension comes amid an ongoing debate over the origins of the coronavirus.
Republican members of the House panel have been looking into the facility’s research to support its claim that the COVID-19 virus resulted from a laboratory leak in Wuhan.
In February, the U.S. Department of Energy made a “low confidence” conclusion
supporting claims that SARS-CoV-2 — the pathogen responsible for the disease — did originate from the institute.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic concluded its “Investigating the Origins of COVID-19
” in March, which pointed to how “the science, facts, and evidence” point to a lab leak in Wuhan.
Not funded by US taxes: NIH officials have previously denied that U.S. taxpayer dollars went to laboratory research that could have led to the pandemic. The agency, however, admitted to being unaware of the other research activities in the facility.
Findings of an internal watchdog agency in January exposed significant errors in the NIH’s oversight of the grants, revealing missed deadlines, confusing protocols and misspent funds.
At the onset of the pandemic, the Trump administration terminated a grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that had been studying coronaviruses in bats with the Wuhan Institute. Although EcoHealth Alliance’s grant was reinstated in May, it no longer provides funding for research involving animals or any study in China.