E&C Republicans Ask Government Watchdog to Study Threat of China Exploiting NIH Research for Military Advantage and Unethical Use

Washington, D.C. — In a new letter, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Republicans, wrote to Government Accountability Office Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.


“We write to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examine the extent to which the National Institutes of Health (NIH) adequately safeguards research funds from national security concerns related to the Chinese military or over the unethical use of human beings in research studies, especially from entities of concern in China.”  

The Chairs have particular concerns about NIH funding that is tied to: 

  • Researchers with affiliations with the “Seven Sons of National Defense,” a group of seven universities with historical ties with China’s military defense industry. 
  • Questionable Chinese research entities, including BGI—a firm based in Shenzhen picked by the Chinese government to build and operate the China National GeneBank. 
  • The unethical use of Chinese ethnic minority data in research studies, including that from Tibetan or Uyghur populations. 


  • Recent reports have raised concerns about the NIH’s ability to screen for national security issues.  
  • A six-month investigation by Vanity Fair found that for a decade, warnings were issued by the Department of Energy to the NIH concerning the risk that U.S.-funded biology research could be misused by overseas partners.  
  • Recent reports from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and GAO have noted NIH safeguarding problems regarding foreign grant recipients.  
  • Recently, a student from China who was headed to the National Cancer Institute was repatriated at Dulles Airport after interrogation from Department of Homeland Security officials about ties to the Chinese government, Chinese military, or state laboratories. 
  • Concerns about the NIH’s ability to vet foreign collaborators have also arisen from the Committee’s investigation of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.