The Leaders Call on NIH again to be transparent and provide documents the Committee GOP is requesting.
Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA), sent a new letter Wednesday to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins.
There were four main points of concern that the leaders raise in their letter:
HUMANIZED MICE: The leaders call for answers regarding possible gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) following a Committee staff briefing by NIH officials on research on what could be “humanized mice.”
LETTER EXCERPT: [T]he NIH has denied supporting “gain-of-function” research at the WIV through this [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] grant. For example, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci testified, “The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” You also stated: “Let me be very clear, we never approved any grant that would have supported gain of function research on dangerous coronaviruses to see if they could be more transmissible or lethal for individuals in the human species.” Yet, the NIH has declined to produce the underlying grant documents and records to substantiate these assertions. Importantly, the NIH has not provided complete information about exactly what the NIH did support at the WIV.
Based on published reports over the last few months and the NIH’s June 28, 2021, briefing with bipartisan committee staff, we have reason to believe that the NIH may have funded humanized mice experiments at the WIV, and that such experiments may have had the potential to start the pandemic. This recent information seems contrary to NIH’s characterizations of the EcoHealth grant and WIV research at issue.
NIH MUST BE TRANSPARENT: The leaders reemphasized their past requests for documents and information, which the NIH has failed to provide.
LETTER EXCERPT: On March 18, 2021, we sent NIH a detailed, eleven-page request for information about origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the public deserves to see. Three months later, the NIH has refused to cooperate with that request. The NIH has not provided a single document to us or made any document available to the public that responds directly to the paramount question of whether NIH funding played a role in risky research in China that could have started the pandemic.
The leaders restate the need for information on a grant that was given to EcoHealth Alliance on bat coronavirus research with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
LETTER EXCERPT: We specifically requested documents related to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grant R01AI110964, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence” to EcoHealth Alliance that in part funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) research into bat coronaviruses. The NIH has not provided the documents and did not provide written responses to any of the 29 questions in the March 18th letter. Instead, the NIH only provided a one-hour oral briefing to bipartisan committee staff with no documents to address any of the topics covered by the 29 questions in the March 18th letter. Additionally, no subject matter experts from the NIAID were included in the briefing, even though we specifically requested to hear from NIAID, which is the NIH institute responsible for issuing this grant.
NIAID OFFICIAL VISITED WIV: Additionally, the leaders call attention to the fact that an NIAID official visited the WIV in 2017 and co-wrote one of the 2018 State Department cables from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on the WIV that highlighted concerns there.
LETTER EXCERPT: Further, recent documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal that an NIAID official visited the WIV in 2017, and that NIAID had familiarity with the WIV research on bat coronaviruses and that some of these viruses could be transmissible to humans.
Finally, on October 26, 2017, Dr. Ping Chen, the Director of the NIAID office in China located in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, wrote to several NIAID officials stating that earlier in the week she had visited the P4 lab at the WIV and that her contact who helped arrange the visit was Dr. Zhengli Shi, “who is a Chinese collaborator on a NIAID grant to EcoHealth for SARS like coronavirus project.”
Unfortunately, the rest of this email and the trip report were redacted. But, in an April 15, 2020, email sent to Gray Handley of the NIAID with the subject “FW: 2018 Cable” with the January 2018 State Department cable attached, Dr. Chen stated: “Rick forwarded the cable. I was listed as a drafter. About half of the content was taken from my summary.” The January 2018 State Department cable discussed the BSL-4 lab at the WIV, China investing in infectious disease control, unclear guidelines on virus access, the lack of trained talent impeding research, and despite limitations, WIV researchers produce SARS discoveries. For the last topic, the cable noted the WIV research finding “strongly suggests that SARS-like coronaviruses from bats can be transmitted to humans to cause SARS-like disease.” These redacted documents provide a reason to believe that the NIH – or at least the NIAID – had a much higher level of engagement and familiarity with the EcoHealth Alliance grant and WIV bat coronavirus research than just reading press reports during April-July 2020 as NIH suggested at the June 28, 2021, briefing with bipartisan Committee staff.
CLICK HERE to read the full letter to NIH Director Collins.
CLICK HERE to Watch Leader Rodgers on CBS News urging the NIH to provide documents to inform the COVID-19 origins investigation.
CLICK HERE to read more about the COVID-19 origins investigation.