Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, slammed the National Institutes of Health for failing to explain why federal grant money was given to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology through third party organizations despite the lab’s questionable safety practices and connections to the national Communist Party.
Grassley sent a letter to NIH officials earlier this year asking the agency to explain why millions of U.S. dollars ended up at the WIV, and whether the agency was aware that the WIV was conducting questionable research that may have qualified as “gain-of-function.”
In response, the NIH claimed it only provides funds that have been recommended by peer reviews and defended its decision to send millions of dollars to EcoHealth Alliance, the New York-based health organization that channeled the NIH’s funds to the WIV.
Grassley blasted the NIH’s response as insufficient.
“The lack of a precise answer about what oversight was done and the circular reasoning about the apparently arbitrary definitions for what constitutes ‘gain of function’ research is very concerning, especially when we’re talking about American lives and taxpayer dollars ending up in the hands of researchers under the thumb of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said in response.
Grassley is one of several senators from both parties who have raised concerns about the NIH’s funding of the WIV in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of senators called on President Joe Biden to reconsider the federal government’s funding of research in China altogether.
“The United States must complete a thorough review of existing and prior U.S. government support or funding for research collaboration with the PRC related to gain-of-function, synthetic biology, biotechnology, or other research areas that pose dual-use concerns,” the senators said. “U.S. taxpayer funding should not support any collaboration with PRC entities that pose health, economic, or security risks for the United States.”