Released HHS memo suspends and proposes debarment of Wuhan lab.
July 26, 2023
(Washington, DC) – Last week, the House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic released a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) memo stating it had suspended U.S. government funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) effective immediately. WIV is the biological research facility in Wuhan, China, that is suspected to have leaked the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic. It had received U.S. money through a subgrant from EcoHealth Alliance, a New York City-based non-profit that conducts research on pathogens dangerous to humans.
In January 2023, the HHS Office of Inspector General issued an audit report on. a 2014 grant EcoHealth had received from the National Institute of Health (NIH). The report faulted EcoHealth for not properly monitoring a sub-award of nearly $600,000 to WIV that included work to create hybrid bat coronaviruses in order to study the potential of wild viruses to infect humans.
In April 2020, amidst allegations that WIV was Ground Zero for COVID-19, the NIH terminated the grant to EcoHealth. Despite the audit report, in May 2023, EcoHealth received a new grant from the NIH, with the stipulation that no research could be conducted in China or with animals.
HHS has now reconsidered its renewal. According to the memo, after the WIV had repeatedly disregarded requests for “required materials to support its research,” the NIH concluded it was “undisputed” that “WIV research likely violated protocols of the NIH regarding biosafety.” As a result, HHS determined that there is now sufficient evidence in the record to disbar the WIV, saying “immediate action is necessary to protect the public interest.” The WIV has not received any federal funding since 2020 and now has 30 days to respond to the notice. HHS may permanently bar WIV from U.S. government grants.
Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:
“Since the start of the pandemic, multiple federal investigations and research studies have tried to determine whether the Wuhan lab was responsible. With this memo, there is now undeniable evidence that the WIV was conducting coronavirus research while clearly disregarding the necessary biosafety requirements. FGI applauds the Biden administration’s decision to suspend and hopefully bar the Wuhan lab from any future federal funding. But now the question we must ask is, why did it take so long?”