EcoHealth Alliance Corrects Inaccuracies in House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Interim Staff Report
July 13, 2023 – The interim staff report of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic issued on 11 July 2023 includes conclusions about the work of the EcoHealth Alliance that are not only inaccurate, but were crafted to appease a stated political motive.
Page 3 of the report alleges that “NIAID worked with EcoHealth to craft a grant policy to sidestep the gain-of-function research moratorium at the time. This policy—designed by EcoHealth and acquiesced to by NIAID—allowed EcoHealth to conduct and complete dangerous experiments, with very little oversight, at the WIV that would have otherwise been blocked by the moratorium.” This is not true and is based on a misreading of the evidence by The Intercept, the source upon which the interim staff report relies for this statement. EcoHealth Alliance did not support “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Such experiments fall under the US HHS P3CO regulations (https://www.phe.gov/s3/dualuse/documents/p3co.pdf), which define gain-of-function research as likely to 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.” The SARS-related research conducted under NIH funding prior to the pandemic at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) only dealt with bat coronaviruses that had never been shown to infect people, let alone cause morbidity and/or mortality in humans, and therefore by definition was not gain-of-function research. This was confirmed by NIH in a July 7th 2016 letter to EcoHealth Alliance now made public stating “NIAID is in agreement that the work proposed … is not subject to the GoF research funding pause” and repeated by NIH spokesperson Elizabeth Deatrick
(https://theintercept.com/2021/09/09/covid-origins-gain-of-function-research/). EcoHealth Alliance followed the relevant guidelines in place at the time and acted according to NIH guidance.
Page 3 of the report also alleges that “EcoHealth was not in compliance with the grant that provided funds to the WIV. EcoHealth was required to submit its fifth annual progress report by September 30, 2019 and had yet to done so by January 31, 2020 (20). It became clear later, that EcoHealth hid this particular progress report to presumably hide a gain-of-function experiment conducted on a potentially infectious and lethal novel coronavirus.” Again, this is not true and is based on what can only be characterized as a misreading of the relevant evidence about when EcoHealth Alliance submitted its grant progress reports. This question has been asked and answered repeatedly. In fact, EcoHealth Alliance did not violate the award conditions. EHA reported the results of the mouse experiment in question to the NIH in April 2018 in our Year 4 report. Furthermore, EHA conducted no further experiments on these viruses, which, it is important to note, were based on a bat CoV backbone (WIV-1) and dealt with a SARS-related bat CoV, not SARS-CoV (i.e., the work was with a bat CoV spike in a bat CoV backbone, neither of which had ever been shown to infect people). This last point is worth emphasizing – the fact is that the bat coronavirus research conducted by EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology was not “conducted on a potentially infectious and lethal novel coronavirus” and could not have started the COVID-19 pandemic. As then-NIH Director Francis Collins said in a public statement on October 20, 2021: “NIH wants to set the record straight on NIH-supported research to understand naturally occurring bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, funded through a subaward from NIH grantee EcoHealth Alliance. Analysis of published genomic data and other documents from the grantee demonstrate that the naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.” (Italics added, https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/who-we-are/nih-director/statements/statement-misinformation-about-sars-cov-2-origins). There was no question of EcoHealth “presumably hid[ing] a gain-of-function experiment….” as the work in question was reported transparently to the NIH in a timely way.
Finally, page 4 of the interim staff report includes this statement: “By January 31, 2020, Dr. Fauci knew that NIAID provided funding to the WIV via EcoHealth, EcoHealth and the WIV were conducting potentially dangerous gain-of-function research on novel coronaviruses, this research was being conducted with lackluster oversight, EcoHealth was not in compliance with their grant reporting requirements.” Only the first clause of this statement is correct – the rest are demonstrably false. As noted above, the NIH itself had determined that the research undertaken by EcoHealth Alliance in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology was not “gain-of-function.” The report’s characterization of NIH oversight is subjective – EHA followed all relevant guidance in the conduct of their NIH-funded research. And the allegation that EcoHealth Alliance “was not in compliance” with grant reporting requirements is an allegation made by the NIH in response to Congressional questions, but one that is not borne out by the facts, as shown above with respect to the specific case cited in the SSCP’s interim staff report.
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