Fauci: White House Ordered NIH To Cancel Funding For Coronavirus Research

Dr. Fauci answering a question about why an NIH coronavirus research grant was revoked.Screengrab / C-Span / YouTube

PMH

The grant, which the NIH revoked during the COVID-19 pandemic, funded research on coronavirus emergence in bats.

Ars Technica reports that while testifying to Congress on June 23, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained that a coronavirus research program lost its federal funding “because the NIH [National Institutes of Health] was told to cancel it.” Fauci later told POLITICO that the White House told the National Institutes to cancel the grant.

  • The White House’s direct involvement adds a “new wrinkle,” Technica writes, to the story of the inexplicable withdrawal of a $3.4 million grant to American nonprofit EcoHealth, a group that studies pandemic emergence and prevention on an international level.
  • Technica explains that “The grant, titled ‘Understanding the risk of bat coronavirus emergence,’ was originally funded by the NIH in 2014 and renewed for another five years in 2019 after receiving an outstanding peer-review score.”
  • EcoHealth’s work under the grant was international in scope. Some of their work involved collaborating with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who works with bat coronaviruses.
  • However, the Institute became the center of a conspiracy theory claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from the lab, whether intentionally or by accident.
  • Scientists have refuted this suggestion, including EcoHealth’s president Peter Daszak, who said, “there's just no evidence that anybody had it in the lab anywhere in the world prior to the outbreak.”
  • Nevertheless, when a reporter asked President Donald J. Trump about the false story and asked, “Why would the US give a grant like that to China?” Trump answered, “We will end that grant very quickly.”
  • Shortly thereafter, American nonprofit EcoHealth received news that its grant funding was being revoked.
  • A termination letter from the National Institutes to EcoHealth only states, “At this time, NIH does not believe that the current project outcomes align with the program goals and agency priorities.”
  • According to POLITICO, an unnamed White House official explained that although the White House encouraged the grant withdrawal, the decision was ultimately made by the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the National Institutes are a part.
  • A Health and Human Services spokesperson said only that the “grantee was not in compliance with NIH’s grant policy.”
  • In an emailed statement to Technica, the National Institutes said, “NIH does not discuss internal deliberations on grant terminations.”

Daszak, EcoHealth’s president, has lamented what he calls an “obvious case of political interference.” He Tweeted,

Eventually, we’ll all know the shoddy truth of how a conspiracy theory pushed by this administration led @NIHDirector to block the only US research group still working in China to analyze COVID origins. Thanks to this China can now do the research, we can’t!

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