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FIRST ON FOX: House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans are calling for further investigation into EcoHealth Alliance and its president after the organization allegedly withheld certain COVID-19 research data from peer reviewers in an effort to retain funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that claims it is dedicated to “protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease,” is facing scrutiny from Republicans over information it provided in reports related to its “humanized mice experiments” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, according to a lengthy letter obtained by Fox News Digital that the Republicans sent to NIH Acting Director Lawrence Tabak on Monday.
Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.; and Morgan Griffith, R-Va., signed the letter, which addresses multiple concerns from Republicans and asks the agency to determine whether certain data was “intentionally withheld” to preserve a grant from the NIH after a committee review of reports from EcoHealth found multiple discrepancies.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gestures during a news conference in the Capitol on Feb. 8, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
“Our review of EcoHealth Alliance’s reports about its humanized mice experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology using funds from the National Institutes of Health shows pervasive discrepancies, inconsistencies, and omissions in its progress reports and renewal application that raise serious questions about scientific and ethical misconduct, violations of NIH policies and regulations, and possible false statements and fraud,” the Republicans wrote.
“Accordingly, we request the NIH investigate Dr. Peter Daszak, the Principal Investigator of R01AIll0964, and other EcoHealth officials to determine whether certain data related to mice deaths and other material information were intentionally withheld during the peer review process for EcoHealth’s grant renewal application,” they added.
The five-year grant, according to the letter, was provided from June 2014 to May 2019 and required EcoHealth to provide yearly progress reports to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). A peer reviewed grant renewal application submitted by EcoHealth determines if – and how much – funding would be provided.
Around the beginning of November 2018, EcoHealth submitted a renewal application to NIAID and the grant was renewed for another five years. That grant, issued prior to EcoHealth submitting its Year 5 progress report, was valued at $3.7 million plus a $369,819 increase over the first award, the letter said.
Rep. Brett Guthrie speaks during the House Republican Conference news conference in the Capitol on Feb. 8, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
“EcoHealth first proposed testing chimeric SARS-like viruses in a humanized mice experiment to evaluate pathogenicity in the spring of 2016,” the letter stated. “The NIH approved this research in July 2016 with the condition that EcoHealth immediately stop its experiments and report to the NIH if there was more than one log of virus growth in any of mice groups infected with one of the chimeric viruses.”
Pointing to three documents from EcoHealth – the Year 4 progress report, the renewal application for the NIAID grant, and the Year 5 progress report – the Republicans targeted the group over language it used in reports related to the mice experiment that prevented peer reviewers from seeing complete results of the research that may have been shut down with no further grant renewal.
The Republicans claimed the organization deleted the word “dead” from the term “dead point” in a paragraph of its renewal application and described infected mice in the experiment with a 75% death rate as only having “mild” clinical symptoms.
Rep. Morgan Griffith attends a hearing in Washington on April 6, 2022. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
In addition, the Republicans stated that the complete results of the experiment showed discrepancies and omissions that would have prompted questions from peer reviewers about the conduct of the experiment.
“NIH must further examine Peter Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “Their apparent cover-up of a humanized mice experiment at the Wuhan lab was an attempt to subvert the NIH’s peer review process. Daszak has a lengthy record of discrepancies and questionable claims that must be thoroughly investigated.”
In a November 2021 letter to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), committee Republicans outlined numerous misconduct concerns about Daszak and requested an investigation into EcoHealth, claiming that the group violated the NAM member Code of Conduct.
(Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
“After receiving our letter, NAM notified us they had opened an internal review of Daszak’s behavior, per our request,” an Energy and Commerce committee aide told Fox News Digital. “We believe this letter about EcoHealth’s potential false statements and fraud is relevant to the ongoing investigation the NAM is conducting into Peter Daszak, so we have sent NAM a copy of this letter as well.”
Earlier this year, 25 House Republicans sent a letter to the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) after it awarded a nearly $5 million grant to EcoHealth, questioning whether the agency took into consideration concerns surrounding the organization before it provided the financial support for research.
A copy of the letter House Republicans sent Monday was also provided to the National Academy of Medicine and the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the committee continues its investigation into the origins of COVID-19.