Biden Administration Suspends Funding for Scientist Linked to Wuhan Laboratory

Biden Administration Suspends Funding for Scientist Linked to Wuhan Laboratory
Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, testifies before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in Washington, on May 1, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has suspended funding for a scientist who has worked closely with the Chinese laboratory located in the same city where the first COVID-19 cases occurred.

Peter Daszak, the president of the EcoHealth Alliance organization, was informed by HHS officials on May 21 that he is suspended.

HHS officials are also considering debarring Mr. Daszak, or more permanently blocking him from receiving funding.

Mr. Daszak was listed as the principal investigator on a grant called “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” He and his group took some of the millions of dollars they received from 2014 through 2019 and passed money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where scientists were conducting at least one set of experiments that increased the function of bat coronaviruses.

After new rules were introduced in 2016, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, said the project could continue but that EcoHealth must immediately notify U.S. officials if any of the experiments increased virus growth by greater than one log.

Testing in the last year of the grant made mice infected with a modified bat coronavirus sicker than mice infected with the original virus, but EcoHealth did not tell the institute of the revelation until 2021.

EcoHealth claimed it tried submitting the annual report containing details of the experiments in 2019 but was locked out of the government system. A forensic analysis undertaken by the government showed no evidence supporting the claim.

EcoHealth (EHA) was also unable to provide laboratory notebooks and other documents that would shed more light on the experiments. Mr. Daszak blamed scientists in Wuhan.

“Dr. Daszak was ultimately responsible for ensuring that EHA and WIV complied with all grant requirements and federal regulations. Based on the information in the record, I have determined that there is adequate evidence to demonstrate that this failure by Dr. Daszak is of so serious a nature that it affects his present responsibility, and therefore, his suspension and proposed debarment is necessary,” an HHS official stated in a memorandum outlining the reason for the suspension and proposed debarment.

The official also said that the suspension of Mr. Daszak “is necessary to protect the public interest.”

Mr. Daszak, who holds a doctorate in parasitic infectious diseases and is on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine advisory committee, could not be reached.

“In all of our federally funded projects, we have maintained an open, transparent communication with agency staff … [and] rapidly provided information critical to public health and agriculture,” Mr. Daszak said during a recent congressional hearing.

An EcoHealth spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email that the proposed debarment is “based on false assumptions, misrepresentations, misunderstandings of the science involved, and selective use of the evidentiary record.”

The suspension means Mr. Daszak cannot receive U.S. funds. A suspension is temporary. Debarments are typically for no more than three years, but can be imposed for longer based on certain factors

Mr. Daszak can contest the findings. Either he or a representative must present information challenging the findings to the HHS within 30 days.

EcoHealth said evidence will be provided proving that debarment is not warranted.

“Dr. Daszak’s impending debarment does not shield him from accountability to the American people. It appears that Dr. Daszak may have lied under oath about his relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and his compliance with NIH grant procedures. The select subcommittee intends to hold Dr. Daszak accountable for any dishonesty and reminds him that this debarment decision does not preclude him from producing all outstanding documents and answering all the questions of this congressional body,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, said in a statement.

The panel recently released a report that found Mr. Daszak may have violated federal laws, including a statute that bars falsifying, concealing, or covering up “any trick, scheme, or device.”

Members recommended federal prosecutors investigate Mr. Daszak.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

EcoHealth declined to comment.

President Joe Biden’s administration previously debarred WIV and earlier in May suspended EcoHealth and proposed its debarment, for similar reasons as Mr. Daszak’s suspension.

That suspension drew bipartisan support.

“Every recipient of federal taxpayer funding has an obligation to meet the utmost standards of transparency and accountability to the American public,” Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said in a statement at the time. “EcoHealth Alliance’s failure to do so is a departure from the longstanding legacy of good faith partnerships between NIH and federal grantees to advance science and the public interest, which remains essential for the continued work of preventing and preparing for future threats to our nation’s public health.”

Before the suspension, EcoHealth had three active grants. One was to study and test virus samples in southeast Asia with the goal of understanding “the risk of novel viral emergence in a uniquely important region.” Another was to conduct experiments on the Nipah virus in Bangladesh to “understand why Nipah virus outbreaks appear to only occur in the western part of Bangladesh despite the virus, host (Pteropus medius fruit bats), and the primary route of transmission (date palm sap consumption) being present throughout the country.” The third was to analyze the potential for future emergence of bat coronaviruses in Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.

From The Epoch Times

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