EcoHealth Alliance Statement Correcting Inaccuracies in Testimony to be Delivered by David Feith before the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on April 18th, 2023
1. At the time of the Lancet letter, it’s important to remember that there were conspiracy theories swirling around the Internet and social media claiming that COVID-19 had been deliberately engineered as a bioweapon in a Chinese laboratory, despite evidence to the contrary that it was likely due to a spillover of zoonotic origin. The purpose of the letter, as stated clearly, was to express solidarity with Chinese colleagues who were facing threats and vilification for simply doing their research and publishing it. Feith’s claim that this involved a “naked” conflict of interest for Peter Daszak is untrue – EHA’s relationship to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was well-known to everyone in the field, and his efforts to encourage other scientists to express support for beleaguered colleagues was in keeping with a strong tradition of scientific freedom and responsibility within the global research community.
2. Feith implies that EHA was collaborating with WIV to do gain-of-function research in Wuhan. Given Feith’s own admission that he is not a scientist, it’s not surprising that he gets this wrong. This allegation has been debunked repeatedly, not least by the NIH itself. EcoHealth Alliance did not support “gain-of-function” research at WIV. Any assertions to the contrary are based either on misinterpretation or willful misrepresentation of the actual research conducted. The NIH defines “gain-of-function” as research that will create new viral strains with “enhanced transmissibility or virulence” for viruses that are already (1) “likely highly transmissible and likely capable of wide and uncontrollable spread in human populations;” and (2) “likely highly virulent and likely to cause significant morbidity and/or mortality in humans.” Because the SARS-related research conducted by EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology dealt with bat coronaviruses that had never been shown to infect people, let alone cause significant morbidity and/or mortality in humans, by definition it was not gain-of-function research. This was confirmed by NIH on July 7, 2016, in a letter to EcoHealth Alliance made public via Freedom of Information Act requests stating “NIAID is in agreement that the work proposed … is not subject to the GoF research funding pause” (italics added). This was also stated by NIH spokesperson Elizabeth Deatrick and reported here (https://theintercept.com/2021/09/09/covid-origins-gain-of-function-research/ ).
3. Feith implies something sinister in the fact that a DARPA proposal by EHA in 2018 was not disclosed before it was leaked from within DoD. But the proposal in question was rejected, and the proposed research was never done. To claim on this basis that something risky was happening in a Wuhan laboratory is factually incorrect.