The Biden administration has officially banned taxpayer money from being funneled to a controversial Chinese laboratory long suspected of causing the Covid pandemic.
This week, an official statement from the Department of Health and Human Services said the Wuhan Institute of Virology failed to demonstrate that its experiments were safe.
EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit, received $8 million from the National Institutes of Health between 2014 and 2021 to be outsourced to research facilities like WIV, which received about $3.7 million.
HHS said the Wuhan researchers violated the terms for receiving federal grant money because poor biosafety protocols at the lab “possibly led or could lead to health problems or other unacceptable outcomes.”
The ban on funding the WIV will last a decade, seven years longer than the average suspension, although the move is unlikely to shield the agency from criticism over funding the experiments in the first place.
The Biden Administration announced it would suspend the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) access to government funding and issued a 10-year ban after the lab failed to provide sufficient documentation on its biosafety protocols and safety measures.
The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spill from wildlife sold at the market or a leak from the Wuhan laboratory just eight miles across the Yangtze River has sparked fierce debate over how to prevent the next pandemic. New studies point to natural overflow at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples from floors, cages and counters also trace the virus to stalls in the southwest corner of the market (below left), where animals with the potential to harbor Covid were being sold for meat or hides at the time (below on the right).
Pictured: The Wuhan Institute of Virology, where Chinese scientists erased crucial data
It marked a major victory in the eyes of lawmakers who allege the biolab was the genesis of the pandemic, with one calling it “an essential and obvious step in the right direction.”
The 10-year ban was first proposed in July when HHS outlined the Wuhan laboratory’s various failures to provide detailed laboratory notebooks and documents on its experimentation with bat coronaviruses tested in mice.
According to the federal health agency, Wuhan researchers had conducted coronavirus experiments beyond what the terms of the grant allowed. It also alleged that the WIV maintained poor biosafety standards, potentially putting people at risk.
‘Due to WIV’s disregard of NIH requests that WIV provide materials necessary to support its research…NIH’s conclusion that WIV’s research likely violated NIH biosafety protocols is undisputed .
“As such, there is a risk that WIV has not only previously violated, but is currently violating, and continues to violate, NIH protocols on biosafety.”
EcoHealth was not prevented from receiving federal grant money that it would later distribute.
In fact, the Biden administration recently resurrected a financial alliance between the government and EcoHealth in which the latter would get $2.3 million annually to fund scientific research.
The deal ended under the Trump administration in April 2020. But money still flows to labs like WIV.
Between 2015 and 2023, at least seven U.S. entities provided NIH grants to laboratories in China conducting animal experiments, totaling $3,306,061.
British researcher Dr. Peter Daszak, who heads EcoHealth Alliance, pictured with Dr. Anthony Fauci
Virologist Shi Zheng-li, left, works with her colleague in the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017. Dr. Li was one of those who received a notice from HHS about defunding, but never responded to the agency.
NIH grants most recently awarded to American academic institutions to fund research would often be shared with animal testing laboratories abroad, including the WIV.
In total, about $15 million in government grants have gone toward animal experiments in foreign laboratories from 2013 to this year.
The HHS message to the WIV was one of several sent by phone, email, fax and international mail.
The emails could not be delivered to addresses officials had, the fax number was inactive, and the mailed notice was returned to HHS headquarters in DC.
The formal debarment notice did not mention the coronavirus as having been manipulated to such an alarming degree.
But that didn’t stop proponents of the lab leak theory from taking this move as confirmation that people at the highest levels of government believe the pandemic started in that lab and spread from there.
Ohio Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup saying: ‘This is especially timely as mounting evidence and intelligence continues to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory failure in Wuhan.
Rep. Wenstrup, who serves as chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, added: “Rewarding the potential source of a global pandemic with American resources will only lead to more health risks in the future.”
The lab leak theory has gained significant momentum in recent years as vaccines and general immunity have kept the public away from the worst days of the pandemic.
This culminated in a Republican-authored congressional report last December that revealed “indications” that WIV had a lab incident linked to China’s bioweapons program that led to Covid “spillover” into the general public.
The theory has also received support from government entities.
The Department of Energy believes, although with “low confidence,” that the pandemic originated from a laboratory leak. The FBI reached the same conclusion with “moderate” confidence.
But overall the intelligence community remains divided on the issue.