Guthrie, E&C Republicans to NIH: Why Resume Taxpayer-Supported Grant Funding to EcoHealth?
WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (KY-02), House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (VA-09) sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Acting Director Lawrence Tabak requesting information regarding why the agency reportedly awarded a new grant and planned on resuming a suspended grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which had been funding coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“EcoHealth Alliance shouldn’t get a dime of taxpayer funding unless it comes clean about its well-documented failures and can clearly demonstrate it can be trusted to oversee risky research that has potential to start a pandemic,” said Leaders Guthrie, Rodgers, and Griffith. “The NIH has a responsibility to the American people to ensure research supported by taxpayer dollars is conducted with the highest standard of integrity, transparency, and safety. To that end, agency officials must answer why they are considering restoring funding to EcoHealth Alliance.”
Key Excerpt: “In an October 4, 2022, interview with the Washington Post, in response to a question about funding of this new grant by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to EcoHealth, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that EcoHealth ‘adequately addressed’ NIH ‘administrative things’ presumably related to noncompliance in the R01 award. He pointed this out to show there would be no mechanism to arbitrarily cut off funding for EcoHealth and that NIH could be legally vulnerable if it took such an action (‘If they [EcoHealth] ever brought that to court, they could sue us, and win that in a microsecond.’). However, this assertion begs the question of how NIH determined EcoHealth had adequately addressed noncompliance issues given the history of this grant.
“NIH’s own findings and EcoHealth’s own statements and actions suggest EcoHealth violated the False Claims Act (FCA) when it accepted NIH grant terms by drawing down NIH grant funds but materially failed to comply with the terms of the grant. Recent Department of Justice (DOJ) FCA settlements with an NIH grantee demonstrate that these ‘administrative things; include requirements on NIH grantees to make factual representations to NIH without deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard. In addition, NIH grantees must make full disclosure to the NIH. As DOJ has noted, ‘Full disclosure is essential not only in validating scientific research, but also in the intense competition for scientific funding from the federal government. NIH’s application process is intended to yield information that is critical to the agency’s responsible stewardship of billions of taxpayer dollars.’ We are troubled that NIH has not provided, and we are not aware of, any evidence of how EcoHealth provided full disclosure of the experiment without substantiating records and thus adequately addressed these critical requirements with the R01 award.”
The members also raised specific concerns about Dr. Fauci’s assertions given that:
The members asked the Acting Director to respond to questions by November 7, 2022, regarding EcoHealth’s non-compliance with NIH grant regulations.
Click HERE to read the letter to Acting Director Tabak.