Was Oversight Avoided for NIH Funded Wuhan Virus Research?

Was Oversight Avoided for NIH Funded Wuhan Virus Research

The website The Post Millennial, a site considered conservative-to-a-fault by many, on April 5 offered an interesting look at bypassed oversights and other issues regarding work by Dr. Fauci’s NIAID with respect to grants exceeding $600,000 to China’s Wuhan Lab. As an aside, Trial Site notes that political wrangling must stop if we are going to beat COVID-19: we need perspectives from doctors of all philosophies, yet at the same time we must exercise caution when we read an article, as to the biases of the particular media source. That being said, per the Millennial, back in 2017 DHHS formed a pandemic oversight framework (P3CO) for HHS to make sure that when it comes to work on “dangerous pathogens” some safeguards are in effect. Yet evidence shows that, “these measures were circumvented in a crucial grant that eventually bankrolled the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). What many consider to be ground zero for the COVID outbreak.” Under the director’s oversight, an NIAID/NIH grant to the non-profit EcoHealth led to a transfer of $600,000  from the later to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for the study of coronaviruses in China. Had P3CO seen EcoHealth’s grant they could have suggested extra safety measures, for example, “measures to prevent something like a lab leak.” 

Review is Optional

When ex-CDC director Robert Redfield recently touted the lab-leak theory of COVID-19, Fauci and the China-tied Dr. Ian Lipkin retorted with strong objections. This in the context of 2018 State Department cables warning of “the risky studies on coronaviruses from bats” at the WIV. The grant in question was able to skip P3CO review as, “flagging proposals for review is optional.” 

Per an NIH spokesperson, “After careful review of the grant, NIAID determined research in the grant was not gain-of-function research because it did not involve the enhancement of the pathogenicity or transmissibility of the viruses studied. We would not submit research proposals that did not meet the definition, because otherwise we would need to submit everything.” Richard H. Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University said the abstract for the grant “outright” says that the research meets gain-of-function criteria. 

And with P3CO’s bylaws, “the HHS review committee wasn’t obligated to give a second opinion on NIAID’s own determination over the EcoHealth grant.” The Trump administration cut off EcoHealth’s grant in April 2020, with research director Michael Lauer stating, “At this time, NIH does not believe that the current project outcomes align with the program goals and agency priorities.” Per Dr. Fauci,  “I don’t know the reason, but we were told to cancel it.” Regarding more of the backstory on this saga and Fauci’s role, see this past Trial Site article.

The Backstory—Exploration into Ties?

In that article, TrialSite reminds early in the pandemic that a center of speculation in this city (and the world) has been the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Per Wikipedia, this “[l]aboratory has strong ties to the Galveston National Laboratory in the University of Texas. It also had strong ties with Canada‘s National Microbiology Laboratory until WIV staff scientists Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng, who were also remunerated by the Canadian government, were escorted from the Canadian lab for undisclosed reasons in July 2019.” NIH documents from 2006 state, “NIH – Chinese Academy of Sciences Agreement [.] Since 1983, NIH has had an agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for cooperation in the basic biomedical sciences. The Fogarty International Center [an NIH project] serves as Executive Agent for the U.S. and the Bureau of Foreign Affairs, CAS, for the Chinese.”

As reported on the NIH website in 2018, NIH and NIAID have partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, among others, on research relating to SADS-CoV, a swine-infecting coronavirus. The work involved four pig farms in the Guangdong Province; NIH noted that as of 2018, “six coronaviruses are known to cause disease in people, but so far only two of them—SARS-CoV and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus—have caused large outbreaks of fatal illness in people.” Citing Forbes, Wikipedia notes that, “documents dating back to 2015 reveal how the U.S. government was worried about safety standards at that Wuhan lab. […] At the very least, for a government that likes to save face, the fact that the U.S. government helped build and fund the Wuhan virology lab in question should be enough for China to open that info vault to scientists at the World Health Organization.”

Outsourcing?

Last year an April 22 Asia Times article raises more questions about WIV. After noting that NIH funding to WIV amounted to $3.7 million, they state that the US passed a federal moratorium on gain-of-function (“altering natural pathogens to make them more deadly and infectious”) research in 2014 “as a result of rising fears about a possible pandemic caused by an accidental or deliberate release of these genetically engineered monster germs.” They say the now-famous Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIAID “outsourced” this research in 2015 to the Wuhan lab and licensed the lab to continue receiving US government funding.

“Also, if there was a government ban in 2014 on federal funding being used for GOF research, what are the federal compliance and ethical issues surrounding the fact that the NIH still gave federal funding instead of private funding to the Wuhan lab to continue the experiments? Moreover, could some strains of the coronavirus have originated in US labs, given the fact the US government lifted the ban in December 2017 on GOF research without resolving lab-safety issues?”

Responses

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.