E&C Republicans to NIH: Turn Over Previously Requested Information Ahead of New Congress
NIH’s Lack of Transparency at Odds with Its Stated Mission
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) today sent a letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Senior Official Lawrence Tabak following up on 12 unanswered or insufficiently addressed letters that requested information and were sent between March 12, 2021 and October 31, 2022. The letter also serves as a formal notice for NIH to preserve all records and materials related to the topics in the previous letters.
“We write to urge the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to respond to our longstanding requests to provide us information related to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including matters related to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) grant to EcoHealth Alliance and subgrant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), and other subjects. Some of these requests have been outstanding for more than a year. NIH’s persistent lack of transparency with members of its authorizing committee of jurisdiction is troubling. According to its mission statement, a goal of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is ‘to exemplify […] the highest level of scientific integrity and public accountability.’ However, given the overall lack of adequate responsiveness to our oversight letters, the NIH is falling short of the goal set forth in its mission statement.”
“Furthermore, this letter serves as a formal request to preserve all existing and future records and materials in your agency’s possession relating to the topics addressed in this letter. You should construe this preservation notice as an instruction to take all reasonable steps to prevent the destruction or alteration, whether intentionally or negligently, of all documents, communications, and other information, including electronic information and metadata, that are or may be responsive to this congressional inquiry. This instruction includes all electronic messages sent using official and personal accounts or devices, including records created using text messages, phone-based message applications, or encryption software.”
CLICK HERE to read the full November 30, 2022, letter to Dr. Tabak.
Full copies of the 12 above mentioned letters are available below:
On March 18, 2021, the Republican Leaders sent an eleven-page letter, based on what was known at that time, requesting information related to where SARS CoV-2 originated and how NIH grant dollars at the WIV were used. While documents released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests suggest that NIH had prepared a draft written response, NIH never sent a written response to our questions.
On June 10, 2021, Committee members wrote to strongly express support for a “comprehensive investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the possibility of an accidental laboratory leak.” To date, NIH has not provided a written response.
On July 21, 2021, Committee Leaders sent another letter reiterating our request for information to our March 2021 letter, which NIH failed to provide written, substantive responses to. NIH has not provided a written response to the specific questions outlined in the July 2021 letter.
Republican Leaders submitted an August 2021 letter again requesting information about NIAID’s coronavirus grant to EcoHealth Alliance. To date, NIH has not provided a written response.
Based on documents the Department of Health and Human Services arranged for the Committee to review in camera, Republican Leaders highlighted in an October 27, 2021, letter our concerns about NIH’s oversight of EcoHealth Alliance’s research proposal that purported it was not conducting gain-of-function research. NIH has not submitted a written response to this letter.
On February 14, 2022, we sent a letter about concerns that Dr. Collins, while Director of NIH, may have taken steps to actively suppress scientific discussion that COVID-19 could have originated from a research-related incident, not just from natural transmission. A similar letter was also sent to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the NIAID. To date, neither NIH nor NIAID have not sent any written responses to these letters.
On February 24, 2022, Republican Leaders raised concerns that NIH failed to effectively enforce its policies and regulations over EcoHealth Alliance. To date, NIH has not sent a written response.
On April 25, 2022, Republican Leaders wrote a letter raising concerns that EcoHealth Alliance was potentially omitting key information in research allegedly conducted at WIV in order to obtain a renewal of federal grant funding. While NIH has provided some information in a bipartisan briefing, many questions remain unanswered. NIH has not provided a written response to this letter.
Although required by the NIH Reform Act of 2006, NIH has failed to convene the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) since 2015. Republican Leaders wrote asking why this Board, intended to make NIH more efficient and effective, inexplicably stopped convening seven years ago. To date, NIH has not provided a written response.
As highlighted in an August 11, 2022, letter, Republican Leaders received inadequate responses in 2021 as to why NIH failed to remove an alleged sexual perpetrator disciplined in three states from co-chairing an NIH steering committee, even after receiving complaints from female scientists alleging the misconduct. To date, NIH has not provided a written response.
Last month Republican Leaders sent NIH a letter raising concerns about how NIH could contemplate funding a new EcoHealth Alliance grant considering this organization’s past noncompliance with regulatory requirements and grant terms. To date, they have not received a written response from NIH to this letter.
Last month Republican Leaders sent a letter requesting information related to a NIAID intramural experiment that would enhance the more dangerous version of the monkeypox virus by making the disease about 1000 percent more lethal in mice. To date, they have not received a response.