A new federal investigation will examine the National Institute of Health’s grant program, amid concerns that grant money went toward a Wuhan lab that is being closely targeted by GOP-led investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Led by a panel of federal investigators from Health and Human Services, the probe will look into the way NIH monitors its grant money. Specifically, the panel will look at where grant money went between 2014-2021. The new investigation was spurred by growing concerns that NIH money funded The Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab central to some theories about where the COVID-19 virus originated.
According to the review’s written plan, the panel will examine whether the grant money given was in accordance with federal regulations, and not funding any research not approved by the US government, such as Gain of Function research, which was banned in the United States from 2014-2017 due to its controversial nature. The review aims to determine whether the NIH was funding “grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts that support the advancement of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems,” according to the review plan from the HHS-IGO.
The HHS-IGO also wrote, “approximately 80 percent of NIH funding goes to support research grants, including grants and subawards to support research conducted outside the United States.” The IGO has found evidence of questionable grants to overseas entities, and “has previously identified NIH’s oversight of grants to foreign applicants as a potential risk to the Department meeting program goals and the appropriate use of federal funds.”
The urgency of understanding the origins of COVID-19 makes such an investigation even more vital, as scientists work to understand whether the virus jumped from animal to human or whether it was leaked from a lab. Under specific scrutiny in the investigation will be grants to the EcoHealth Alliance, a global nonprofit that studies the scientific relationships between humans, animals and the environment. At a congressional budget hearing earlier this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers, “About $600,000 was spent over a five-year period,” Fauci said during a congressional budget hearing. “That comes to anywhere between $125 (thousand) and $150,000 per year that went to collaboration with Wuhan.”
After it was discovered that several scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in the fall of 2019 with a mysterious illness, calls for NIH grant oversight grew louder. The new investigation is separate from the one President Biden ordered last month, giving intelligence agencies 90 days to report back on their findings about the origins of the pandemic.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTI CREDITS: PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
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