WASHINGTON — This week, the Biden administration reinstated a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. to continue its risky research on bat coronaviruses in China’s state-run Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – the very studies that may have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant was suspended by the Trump administration due to EcoHealth’s unsafe research and failure to comply with federal laws and NIH’s own terms and conditions.
A scathing audit of EcoHealth’s use of taxpayer dollars – demanded by Ernst and others – recently found that EcoHealth:
- Ignored the requirement to immediately notify NIH when the coronavirus experiments in the WIV resulted in the creation of enhanced pathogens; and,
- Intentionally hid the trail of taxpayer dollars into WIV.
In response to the Biden administration’s decision to reinstate taxpayer funding for this risky research, Ernst is demanding that NIH immediately and permanently debar EcoHealth from receiving any additional funds.
In the letter, Senator Ernst writes: “In a March 2021 letter to the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), I outlined EcoHealth’s ongoing violations of the Stevens Amendment, which prompted a broader audit of EcoHealth’s use of taxpayer dollars. The OIG found that NIH failed to effectively monitor EcoHealth’s studies on bat coronaviruses performed in the WIV, which resulted in the creation of enhanced pathogens. As you know, many experts believe a lab leak related to these studies may have unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite these scathing findings, EcoHealth continues to violate longstanding federal law mandating that all projects supported with taxpayer dollars publicly disclose the costs and to conduct dangerous experiments on coronaviruses collected from bats with the financial backing of the NIH.
“Given EcoHealth’s well-documented and persistent refusal to comply with federal laws, adhere to the terms of government grants, and irresponsible behavior conducting risky research in unsafe labs, I would urge you to immediately debar EcoHealth from receiving any additional taxpayer dollars in order to stop its dangerous experiments before the public’s health is put at risk, possibly for a second time.”
Click here or the image above to watch Ermst and White Coat Waste Project’s Justin Goodman discuss their efforts to hold EcoHealth Alliance accountable.
Since 2020, Ernst has continually pushed for more oversight and accountability in federal research labs, specifically in taxpayer-funded experiments run by NIH.
- In May 2020, Ernst and the White Coat Waste Project revealed that $600,000 in NIH funding was awarded to WIV for dangerous and secretive coronavirus experiments, despite repeated warnings from State Department officials who had visited the lab and stated it was dangerous due to lax safety practices.
- In March 2021, Ernst called on the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to increase cost transparency from the agency, pointing to NIH providing nearly $15 million to WIV funneled through EcoHealth Alliance.
- In November 2021, Ernst introduced the FAUCI Act, which calls for a full accounting of how and where U.S. tax dollars are being spent, a complete ban on funding of Gain-of-Function (GoF) research in Communist China, and restrictions on government officials who intentionally mislead Congress.
- In September 2021, Ernst introduced bicameral legislation to prohibit federal funding of EcoHealth Alliance. Following the introduction of this legislation, in October, Ernst led letters to both NIH and the National Science Foundation demanding the agencies end their grant relationship with EcoHealth.
- In October 2022, Ernst introduced a bill to ensure EcoHealth doesn’t receive another penny of taxpayer money ever again. The bill was re-introduced in January.
- In November 2022, Ernst pushed the White House to reinstate a government-wide ban on all ongoing and new viral GoF and Dual Use Research of Concern studies, which may have increased transmissibility of a coronavirus pathogen during experiments at China’s WIV.
- In February 2023, Ernst awarded her Squeal Award to the Biden administration’s HHS for funding dangerous experiments on coronaviruses.
- In March 2023, Ernst demanded the Office of the Director of National Intelligence release information the Intelligence Community used to assess the origins of COVID-19, including new intelligence linking the pandemic to the WIV.
Read the full letter here.