Rep. Reschenthaler stated that USAID’s funding of the AIDS program was’misguided’ and ‘deeply concerning’
After the United States Agency for International Development awarded EcoHealth Alliance a $5 million grant, a group of House Republicans requested additional information. This was in response to criticisms about EcoHealth Alliance’s coronavirus research conducted in Wuhan.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (Republican from Pennsylvania) said in a statement to Fox News. On Monday, Guy Reschenthaler and 25 other Republicans wrote a letter to Samantha Power, USAID Administrator, inquiring about the five-year grant that was granted in October.
Reschenthaler said that EcoHealth used funds from their federal grant to finance dangerous gain-of function coronavirus research at Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the pandemic.
EcoHealth, under Dr. Peter Daszak’s leadership, has not met federal reporting requirements and given the U.S. government the runaround. They also tried to stop research into the laboratory leak theory. This is why I introduced a bill that would defund EcoHealth.
They’ve shown they are not trustworthy enough to put Americans first over the demands of CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. My colleagues and I also want to know if USAID knew about EcoHealth’s involvement in the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s deceitful track record, and if they will continue to funnel taxpayer money to controversial research or CCP laboratories.”
The letter outlines a number of concerns about USAID and asks if they considered them before awarding taxpayer money.
It asks whether the company will subcontract any foreign labs, or if federal funding will be banned from supporting research in China.
Fox News reached out to USAID and EcoHealth Alliance for comment but they did not respond immediately. According to New York Times, a spokesperson for EcoHealth Alliance has questioned whether their research could have influenced COVID-19. He stated that the coronaviruses they tested weren’t genetically related enough.
The National Institutes of Health had previously accused EcoHealth Alliance of not properly reporting findings about bat coronaviruses in mice. Robert Kessler (the EcoHealth Alliance’s former spokesperson) stated that the organization had submitted its findings to NIH as soon as it was made aware.
Monday’s letter is the latest in a series of letters that have intensified scrutiny of the U.S. government involvement in Wuhan. A group of House Republicans wrote last week accusing the Health and Human Services Department, of blocking congressional investigators’ efforts to investigate the origins COVID-19.
Reschenthaler was previously informed by USAID that EcoHealth Alliance received $1.1 million from its “PREDICT” program between October 2009 and May 2019. It was part of a sub-agreement with Wuhan Institute of Virology, WIV for the purpose of advancing the research on critical viruses that can pose a threat to human or animal health.
The USAID-funded activities of the WIV were in line with work done in other countries that received similar funding. The activities included testing for virus families by polymerase chain reaction, (PCR), in wild animals and humans. They also developed serologic assays for testing for exposure to coronaviruses (i.e. antibodies) in animals and people. These activities were performed to identify and understand zoonotic virus populations in animals before they spread (i.e. are capable of infecting humans) and create potential pandemics in humans. USAID did not authorize or fund any research that would have increased the potential for infectious agents to cause diseases by increasing their pathogenicity or transmissibility (research known at WIV as ‘Gain of Function’). USAID did not receive a request from the EcoHealth Alliance to halt its work.
The WIV stated that the PREDICT project’s work in China was ended by the new administration, who had decided to end all USAID activities in China. The WIV has not received any additional USAID Global Health Security funding since then.