Knowing how the COVID-19 pandemic started is the public health question of our time. This page will be continuously updated with information regarding The COVID-19 Origins Investigation being led by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
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 letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to join the Committee to advance a complete, scientific, independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic
The Leaders’ letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins was the most comprehensive breakdown to date on what we know and don’t know from China about the origins of COVID-19, including key questions about where the World Health Organization’s (WHO) investigation fell short into the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The Leaders requested NIH grant documents and progress reports, among other documents, required by NIH policy and by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to contain mandatory reporting elements such as research accomplishments, findings, and outcomes, and information about research participants and collaborating organizations.
KEY: In February 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO), in a joint mission with China, attempted to investigate the origins of the pandemic, but the Chinese government restricted access to relevant documents and witnesses.
The WHO released a study after the incomplete investigation. As a result, even the WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concluded that further investigation into the origins was needed, including investigation into the laboratory leak origins hypothesis
Upon Dr. Tedros’s call for further investigation, Leader Rodgers said: “As the Republican Leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — which has jurisdiction over public health — I fully support an independent, scientific investigation that gets to the bottom of how this pandemic started. That’s why my colleagues, Rep. Morgan Griffith and Rep. Brett Guthrie, and I are urging the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support and assist a transparent, independent, and science-based investigation. It’s of paramount importance to prevent a future pandemic and to enhance America’s biosecurity.”
Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith sent a letter to EHA requesting information pertaining to the COVID-19 Origins Investigation. EHA, a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant recipient, sub-awarded $598,500 in NIH grant funds to the WIV during 2014-2019 for bat coronavirus research.
Excerpt of the Committee’s inquiry and investigation into EHA:
“We believe through its research activities, collaborations, and EHA’s relationship with the WIV as a federal award subrecipient, that EHA has information and documents that will provide insight into the WIV’s bat coronavirus information and pathways for further research in this area.
“EHA officials have repeatedly stated that they do not believe the pandemic was caused by a lab leak and have solicited support for others to advance that position publicly. However, there is substantial and increasing support from the international scientific community and public health experts, including from the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros, for further investigation into COVID origins, including the possibility of a lab leak.
“Since EHA is confident that a lab leak is not the cause, we expect you to welcome the opportunity to share any and all information, documents, and expertise you have related to bat coronavirus research at the WIV.”
Dr. Peter Daszak with EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) – a long-time partner of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) engaged in bat coronavirus research. EHA and the WIV for several years collected bat coronaviruses in China. These virus samples were then genetically sequenced at the WIV and perhaps elsewhere. As a result of its partnership with EHA, the WIV has assembled what is believed to be the largest collection of bat coronaviruses.
In an Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee hearing, NIH Director Dr. Collins told Leader Rodgers that he believed complete, scientific investigation was needed into the origins of COVID-19. This followed Leader Rodgers questioning him about supporting the Covid-19 Origins Investigation underway by the Energy Commerce Committee.
Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith expand their investigation and ask Secretary of State Antony Blinken to release classified and declassified documents related to their January 15, 2021 fact sheet.
In January 2021, the United States State Department published a fact sheet about the activity at the WIV. The fact sheet asserts that the WIV collaborated with the Chinese military on “secret projects” in conducting classified research, including laboratory animal experiments.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on April 11, 2021, “We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened, in order to have the best shot possible preventing it from happening again.”
When asked if COVID-19 could have been from a lab accident at WIV, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “that possibility certainly exists and I am totally in favor of a full investigation of whether that could have happened.”
Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith send a letter to the director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), requesting a classified briefing on a report LLNL had issued in May 2020 on the possible origins of COVID-19.
“The Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) recently reported that a classified study of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 conducted a year ago by scientists at the Z Division had concluded that the novel coronavirus at the heart of the current pandemic may have originated in a laboratory in China,” the Leaders write. “According to SBG, the Z Division report assessed that both the lab-origin theory and the zoonotic theory were plausible and warranted further investigation. A LLNL spokesperson confirmed the existence of the report to SBG.”
The letter also includes a request to have Dr. David J. Rakestraw, a senior science adviser who formerly directed LLNL’s biodefense programs and has been coordinating the lab’s technical response to COVID-19, brief the leaders.
Top scientists in the United States issued an open letter in Science, a peer-reviewed journal that publishes original scientific research plus reviews and analysis of current research and science policy to substantially advance scientific understanding.
Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith praised support from the scientific community for the COVID-19 origins investigation: “We are grateful these scientific leaders are speaking out on this matter and hope that others, including experts within the National Institutes of Health, will begin researching the virus’ origins. We must be willing to examine whether this pandemic started due to natural origins or a laboratory leak. This is a matter of common ground and shared purpose. We look forward to working with them and all who will follow the science in order to complete this investigation. We need less opinions and more data.”
The open letter from 18 scientists supports a complete, scientific investigation into the origins of the pandemic, including the possibility of a lab leak. The scientists and experts have conducted extensive research in microbiology, including coronaviruses. One of these scientists is Dr. Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina who has a history of collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
It reads in part, “ As scientists with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general, the United States and 13 other countries, and the European Union that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve,” the scientists’ letter says. “We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data. A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest. Public health agencies and research laboratories alike need to open their records to the public.”
NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence A. Tabak sent a short letter in response to the March 18, 2021 letter from E&C Republican Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith. E&C Republican leaders considered the response by Tabak to be unresponsive because NIH did not address any of the 29 questions asked by the Representatives.
Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the Comptroller General of the U.S. requesting that GAO conduct a technological assessment of microbial investigations so that the government can proactively address any failures or shortcomings and prevent future pandemics. This analysis will address which tools and technologies are necessary for forensic attribution of microbial strains, plus policy recommendations to help the government address these challenges.
Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walensky requesting a comprehensive investigation into pinpointing the date of the earliest COVID-19 cases in the U.S., which will help provide more clues to the origins of this pandemic. This comprehensive investigation would build on prior CDC’s research into early cases in the U.S.
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 letter to U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power requesting documents and information related to USAID’s $2.26 million funding of an existing research consortium led by EcoHealth Alliance and University of California at Davis, to investigate the SARS-CoV-2 virus origin. The consortium partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology from 2009 to 2019 as part of the $220 million PREDICT project. PREDICT was one project that comprised part of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threat Program, designed to collect research samples and data for the purpose of detecting deadly viruses of pandemic potential and predicting their outbreak.
One sample collected by PREDICT in 2013 from a bat cave in China and provided to NIH by USAID was “a possible ancestor of SARS-CoV-2.” In the letter, Republican Committee leaders requested information and documents into an April 2020 grant extension to support efforts to examine COVID origins. Due to its unique long-term formal partnership with and capacity building of the WIV, USAID should also provide records specific to its COVID-19 origins – funded investigation, its capacity building of the WIV, and the training of its scientists on research techniques.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responded to the letter from Republican Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith. The representatives requested separate classified briefings from the National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC) and the National Biological Threat Characterization Center (NBTCC) related to investigating the origins of COVID-19. A DHS official wrote on behalf of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas saying that the NBTCC has not done any studies on the origins of COVID-19. With respect to NBFAC, the official said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should be contacted as the NBFAC conducts its technical work at the FBI’s direction.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State Naz Durakoglu responded to the May 6, 2021 letter from Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith with a brief response. The May 6th letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requested that the State Department update and release or declassify additional information regarding the statement in the January 15, 2021 State Department Fact Sheet that the Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborated with the Chinese military in conducting classified research, including laboratory animal experiments. Asst. Sec. Durakoglu says the State Department and Biden administration also believe that the origins of COVID-19 must be investigated but didn’t address the leaders’ requests.
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 their third information request letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins.
In published reports over the past few months and a recent staff briefing with NIH officials, Energy and Commerce Committee staff learned about research performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) on mice, and the possibility that these may have been “humanized mice.” We need NIH to provide documents to confirm if this may have been gain-of-function research at a time when there was a moratorium on such research in the United States. Part of the leaders’ concerns include whether the United States government may have funded research that had the potential to start a pandemic.
The leaders also reiterated their call for NIH transparency and again requested previously requested documents, including information on a grant to EcoHealth Alliance on bat coronavirus research with the WIV.
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 their fourth information letter to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins.
This new letter raises questions about biosafety concerns at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and whether the NIH appropriately assessed such concerns prior to sending U.S. taxpayer funds to conduct research there. In particular, the leaders ask about grants that were awarded to EcoHealth Alliance by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), even after NIH reportedly knew about these biosafety concerns.
The leaders ask the NIH to immediately make arrangements for a staff briefing from NIAID officials and requested answers to several questions by September 7, 2021.
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) released a statement after the Intercept published over 900 pages of documents showing the NIAID funded risky coronavirus research in China through EcoHealth Alliance.
“These NIH grant documents demonstrate that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins have not been honest with the American people. For months, Dr. Fauci dismissed any consideration of the lab leak theory despite, or perhaps because of, his agency’s involvement in risky coronavirus research at the Wuhan lab. Dr. Collins has repeatedly denied what these documents now show. This is why we began asking these questions in March. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration has refused to comply with our oversight.”
Leaders Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith sent a follow-up letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking him to cooperate with a letter the Committee sent him on May 6, 2021 requesting information pertaining to a January 15, 2021 fact sheet on the Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborating with the Chinese military.