Officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) repeatedly warned that EcoHealth Alliance might be conducting “gain-of-function” (GOF) research, according to new emails published by Judicial Watch.
EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit which helped funnel taxpayer money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) for bat-based virus research, was warned they weren’t in compliance with NIH guidelines and were facilitating research that violated a pause on GOF experiments, the emails show. Despite red flags noted by officials at NIH and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) as early as 2016, EcoHealth continued to send money to WIV for years.
“They have proposed work for the next year of the award that may be subject to the gain-of-function funding pause,” NIAID official Erik Stemmy wrote to NIH official Carine Normil in May 2016, referring to work EcoHealth was conducting. “We received a warning that one of the publications [redacted] listed from the past year is non-compliant,” EcoHealth chief of staff Alexa Chmura separately replied to Normil.
In another May 2016 letter, NIH official Jenny Greer and Stemmy wrote to Chmura that EcoHealth might be engaging in research that is subject to a GOF funding pause: “[This work] may include Gain of Function (GoF) research that is subject to the U.S. Government funding pause … issued on October 17, 2014,” they wrote.
The federal government put a pause on funding GOF research from 2014 to 2017. Greer and Stemmy noted a particular line from the grant application, which read “Aim 3: Testing predictions of CoV inter-species transmission.”
In another email, dated June 15, 2016, Stemmy wrote to Grant Operations that EcoHealth’s research might qualify as GOF. “The Daszak award may have GoF [gain-of-function] and I’ve been in touch with the GMS [Grants Management Specialist] for a while now,” Stemmy said.
Daszak also failed to comply with NIH reporting requirements on at least one occasion. “This is the second communication from NIAID requesting that you file the progress report for the above-referenced grant [5R01AI110964] that was due no later than April 15, 2016,” a May 9, 2016 email from Normil to Daszak reads. “Please submit the delinquent report by May 12, 2016…. [P]lease be advised that continued late submission of your non-competing grant progress report and any subsequently requested documentation will result in a reduction of time and/or funds for this grant.”
Proponents of the work happening at the WIV and EcoHealth Alliance, including NIAID head Dr. Anthony Fauci, have denied that the experiments constitute GOF research. GOF research includes any work that genetically alters pathogens to make them more transmissible or dangerous.