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COVID-19 Updates


Jan 19, 2024
Blog

E&C Investigation Reveals China’s Lack of COVID-19 Transparency

Energy and Commerce Republicans are exposing how the Chinese Communist Party withheld critical information from the world in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Committee’s investigation revealed that China had a SARS-CoV-2 sequence for weeks before sharing with the global community.  WASHINGTON — Chinese researchers isolated and mapped the virus that causes Covid-19 in late December 2019, at least two weeks before Beijing revealed details of the deadly virus to the world, congressional investigators said, raising questions anew about what China knew in the pandemic’s crucial early days.  When Beijing shared the SARS-CoV-2 sequence with the World Health Organization on January 11, 2020, two full weeks had elapsed since the virus was sequenced by a researcher at the Institute of Pathogen Biology in Beijing, an arm of the state-affiliated Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences which has ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and People’s Liberation Army.  The documents, obtained from the US Department of Health and Human Services by House Republicans and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, show virologist Dr. Lili Ren uploaded nearly the entire sequence of COVID-19’s structure to a US government-run database on Dec. 28, 2019.  Her work was nearly identical to what Beijing eventually presented to the World Health Organization on January 11, 2020, when the virus had already spread across the world, according to the documents obtained by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  The committee noted that Ren is a subgrantee of the EcoHealth Alliance nonprofit, the organization that previously awarded NIH grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and came under scrutiny during the pandemic.  The earlier posting doesn't change the virus' origin story - whether it was sparked by a live animal market or leaked from a scientific laboratory. But it does renew questions about how much China knew about the virus and when. It suggests that vaccine development could have started sooner. And it raises new questions about how much the U.S. government knew or should have known about the virus in those early days. Public health experts who reviewed the documents said the episode illustrated a missed opportunity to learn more about the virus at the beginning of the global health emergency. The failure to publish the genetic sequence submitted by Ren is "retroactively painful," said Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. Bloom noted that researchers were depending on genetic sequences to begin developing medical interventions to combat the coronavirus and argued that earlier access to the information would have expedited new test and vaccines. "That two weeks would have made a tangible difference in quite a few people's lives," Bloom said. China has been widely criticized for its initial response to the emergence of COVID in Wuhan in late 2019. Western officials have also called on Beijing to be more cooperative in the search for the virus's origins. It "underscores how cautious we have to be about the accuracy of the information that the Chinese government has released," Jesse Bloom, a virologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center who has seen the documents and the gene sequence, told the WSJ. "It's important to keep in mind how little we know." HHS withheld the sequencing information from the committee for seven months, only releasing the documents after threats of subpoena. The Energy and Commerce Committee press release said that the process for "monitoring GenBank submissions is insufficient as the United States had an early SARS-CoV-2 sequence in our possession and apparently had no idea. Don’t Miss :  "This significant discovery further underscores why we cannot trust any of the so-called ‘facts’ or data provided by the CCP and calls into serious question the legitimacy of any scientific theories based on such information. The American people deserve to know the truth about the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and our investigation has uncovered numerous causes for concern, including how taxpayers’ dollars are spent, how our government’s public health agencies operate, and the need for more oversight into research grants to foreign scientists. In addition to equipping us to better prepare for the next pandemic, this investigation’s findings will help us as policymakers as we work to strengthen America’s biosafety practices and bolster oversight of research grants,” said Chairs Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith.   READ MORE: E&C Investigation Uncovers Earliest Known SARS-CoV-2 Sequence Released Outside of China  



Jan 17, 2024
Press Release

E&C Investigation Uncovers Earliest Known SARS-CoV-2 Sequence Released Outside of China

Discovery that shows virus sequence existed two weeks earlier than previously known undercuts China’s timeline of events Washington, D.C. — The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19, led by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), uncovered that a SARS-CoV-2 sequence was submitted to GenBank, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) genetic sequence database operated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), on December 28, 2019—two weeks before the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) first released the virus’s sequence. The sequence was submitted by Dr. Lili Ren, an accomplished virologist at the Institute of Pathogen Biology of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, China, which has ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and People’s Liberation Army. She is also a current subgrantee of non-profit EcoHealth Alliance on the same National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) grant as the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which has been debarred from receiving NIH grants for ten years for failing to provide laboratory records requested by NIH and for conducting research that “did lead or could lead to health issues or other unacceptable outcomes.”  Dr. Ren’s submission was missing some of the technical (not scientific) information required for publication on GenBank. She was notified by NIH staff on December 31, 2019, that her submission would be deleted without the additional information. Dr. Ren’s sequence is not the first instance of Chinese researchers attempting to delete early SARS-CoV-2 sequences posted to GenBank, but it is the earliest known one.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has confirmed that Dr. Ren’s December 28, 2019, sequence was nearly identical to the sequence later made public by the China CDC on January 10, 2020, which at the time was the first known sequence. China has consistently stated that it published the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 as soon as it was available.  "This significant discovery further underscores why we cannot trust any of the so-called ‘facts’ or data provided by the CCP and calls into serious question the legitimacy of any scientific theories based on such information. The American people deserve to know the truth about the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and our investigation has uncovered numerous causes for concern, including how taxpayers’ dollars are spent, how our government’s public health agencies operate, and the need for more oversight into research grants to foreign scientists. In addition to equipping us to better prepare for the next pandemic, this investigation’s findings will help us as policymakers as we work to strengthen America’s biosafety practices and bolster oversight of research grants,” said Chairs Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith.   KEY TAKEAWAYS :  The existence of a SARS-CoV-2 sequence days before the CCP acknowledged an outbreak, and more than two weeks before the China CDC release their sequence, calls into question how early the CCP knew about the virus and how long they withheld this information from the world, resulting in more deaths and wasting critical time to develop vaccines and treatments. The NIH’s system for monitoring GenBank submissions is insufficient as the United States had an early SARS-CoV-2 sequence in our possession and apparently had no idea.  The Biden administration, the NIH, and HHS have obstructed and delayed Congressional investigations into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, refused to produce this sequence for over seven months, and only released it to the Committee after the Committee threatened to subpoena the sequence.  TIMELINE OF THE COMMITTEE’S INVESTIGATION :  May 3, 2023 : E&C Republicans Seek Data and Documents from NIH on Early COVID Cases  CLICK HERE to read the letter.  August 9, 2023 : E&C Presses Unresponsive NIH for Answers about COVID Origins and Risky Research Projects  CLICK HERE to read the letter.  September 28, 2023 : E&C Republicans Signal Intent to Issue Subpoenas as Biden Admin Stonewalls Crucial Investigations into Government Health Agency Actions  CLICK HERE to read the letter.  DOCUMENTS :  HHS’s Cover Letter   Dr. Lili Ren’s December 28, 2019, SARS-CoV-2 submission to GenBank  



Sep 15, 2023
COVID-19

E&C Republicans Ask Government Watchdog to Assess NIH’s Ability to Detect or Prevent Misuse of Grant Funds in Light of EcoHealth Alliance Failures

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, today requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a study on the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) effectiveness in overseeing grant funding. BACKGROUND :  NIH is one of the top research and development funding agencies—particularly for biomedical research.    NIH’s program level funding for Fiscal Year 2023 as enacted is $47.678 billion.   In fiscal year 2020, the agency obligated nearly $43 billion for research in areas such as infectious disease prevention, cancer treatment, and mental health.   NIH obligated as much as 80 percent of these funds towards extramural research, performed by outside organizations including universities, medical centers, and other research institutions.   Organizations receiving extramural research awards from NIH may, in turn, award sub-grants for a portion of the work.   As highlighted in HHS OIG and GAO reports , the use of sub-grants may further complicate the management and oversight of NIH research funds.  KEY EXCERPTS :  “A January 2023 report by the Office of Inspector General within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS OIG) detailed failures by NIH to monitor effectively its grants with EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit research organization. According to that report, the organization had overcharged the government for its services and improperly used federal grant funds. Further, a July 2023 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised similar concerns about NIH’s oversight of grant recipients and recommended that NIH make improvements to its oversight processes.”  […]  “In light of the recent problems in NIH’s oversight and the scale of NIH’s funding of extramural research awards, more transparency is needed about NIH’s policies and procedures as well as its effectiveness in overseeing financial management of its extramural research awards.” The Chairs requested answers to the following questions:  How much funding did NIH provide—using grants, cooperative agreements, or other award mechanisms—for extramural research since fiscal year 2014? For the same time frame, what resources did NIH and each of its institutes and centers have to conduct financial management oversight?  What are the trends in award funding including, for example, the research areas and types/characteristics of award recipients funded; the number, size, and duration of awards; the types of award mechanisms used?  What policies, procedures, and processes does NIH follow to administer and oversee its extramural research awards using grants, cooperative agreements, or other award mechanisms? How do policies, procedures, and processes differ among the NIH institutes and centers in administering and overseeing extramural research awards?   To what extent is NIH, consistent with its policies and procedures, ensuring effective financial management oversight of extramural research funding throughout the award life cycle?  What are the roles and responsibilities of those involved in such oversight including the award recipient?    How, if at all, does NIH’s oversight of extramural research funding differ for intramural research funding?  What internal assessments, if any, does NIH conduct to provide reasonable assurance that funds are being used as intended—including that proposed rates and costs are reasonable and funds are being used appropriately?  How much money has NIH recovered as a result of such internal assessments?    What changes, if any, has NIH implemented based on the findings and lessons learned from such assessments?  What data does NIH collect on the findings and results of its internal assessments? Are there data gaps, and can these gaps be addressed?   What are the lessons learned or best practices from institutes and centers that could be implemented across NIH? CLICK HERE to read the full letter.



Aug 10, 2023
COVID-19

E&C Republicans: SAMHSA Needs To Be Fully Forthcoming About How It Spends Taxpayer Dollars

Agency Received Nearly $9 Billion in COVID Supplemental and 9-8-8 Hotline Funds   Washington D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Health Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, sent a letter to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) requesting a full accounting of how the agency spent more than $8 billion that it was allocated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter is a continuation of the Committee’s investigation into the COVID supplemental funds received by SAMHSA and awarded to states. Previous responses from SAMHSA did not detail how much of these funds have been spent and how these expenditures were used. KEY EXCERPTS: “Unfortunately, even after prompting by the Committee staff, SAMHSA is not providing the full accounting for billions of dollars in expenditures as requested. SAMHSA needs to be fully forthcoming with information about nearly $8 billion in COVID supplemental funds received by SAMHSA and awarded to states. “In addition, SAMHSA reported more than $900 million has been “invested” in the 9-8-8 crisis care system since FY 2022. This is a massive amount of money, and SAMHSA has not produced specific data showing how these funds are being used, or even if they are being used. “SAMHSA’s description of the December 2022 cybersecurity incident impacting the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is also troubling. SAMHSA reported that it is still awaiting the final report from its third-party security assessor.” “Further, SAMHSA suggested that the Committee direct detailed questions to the FBI, given the ongoing nature of the investigation. Given that this incident is being investigated by law enforcement, this indicates a much more significant and concerning event.” CLICK HERE to read the full letter. CLICK HERE to read the Committee’s April 2023 letter to SAMHSA.



Aug 9, 2023
COVID-19

E&C Presses Unresponsive NIH for Answers about COVID Origins and Risky Research Projects

Washington D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Health Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), sent two letters to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) following up on the NIH’s lack of response to requests for information and documents. By failing to respond, the NIH is hindering Congress from exercising its Constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities and not being accountable to the American people. On May 1, 2023 , Chairs Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith  sent a letter  to the Acting Director of the NIH, Dr. Lawrence Tabak, regarding NIH’s oversight of potential risky research activities such as virus mutation or manipulation in experiments involving SARS, MERS, or SARS CoV-2. It has been over three months, and the Committee has no meaningful evidence that the NIH is responding to this request. Today’s letter to Dr. Tabak builds on the Committee’s investigation of the adequacy of the NIH’s oversight of research it funds that may pose significant biosafety or biosecurity risks. As written in the letter, “in the event that NIH does not provide documents by that date, the Committee will be forced to consider compulsory process to secure production of the requested documents.” CLICK HERE  to read the full follow-up letter. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND: In January 2022, the Chairs  requested  a list of all proposed, approved, or ongoing research work that NIH is funding in the area of coronaviruses (especially SARS CoV-2), or viruses related to SARS, MERS, or SARS CoV-2. In its written response, NIH specifically ignored the question: “Does the research involve virus manipulation, passaging of a virus, genetically modified animals, or making any mutations to a virus?” On April 27, 2023, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a  hearing  titled “Biosafety and Risky Research: Examining if Science is Outpacing Policy and Safety.” In June 2023, Committee leaders   sent letters  to the CDC, HHS, and NIH seeking information on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity safety practices at those agencies. The Committee calls on the Biden administration to increase  transparency  both in declassifying information related to the origins of COVID-19 and in the U.S. government’s role in funding risky virus research, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.  On May 3, 2023, Chairs Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith  sent another letter  to Dr. Tabak requesting information that would bolster the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the origins of COVID-19, specifically regarding any early SARS-CoV-2 sequences, data from early COVID-19 cases, or other pertinent documents related to the early phase of the pandemic. However, as written in today's letter, instead of providing documents that “could help support the Committee’s potential legislative efforts to improve pandemic preparedness, strengthen NIH grant oversight, and enhance the biosafety of laboratory and field research,” the NIH has failed to meaningfully engage. In this follow-up letter, the NIH is once again asked to either comply with this request for information or face a compulsory process.   CLICK HERE to read the full follow-up letter. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:  In March of 2023, Congress passed  S. 619 ,  the Covid-19 Origins Act, which requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassify all information relating to potential links between the origins of COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.  In April of 2023, the  New York Times   reported  that the Chinese Communist Party forced a team of scientists from the United States and China to withdraw an early study on COVID-19. In June of 2023, Chair Rodgers  responded  to the Director of National Intelligence’s release of limited information regarding COVID-19 origins by demanding complete declassification of COVID-19 origins information.



Aug 2, 2023
COVID-19

E&C Requests GAO Assess Risks and Benefits of Gain-of-Function Research

Washington, D.C. – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), on behalf of the Health and Oversight Subcommittee Republicans, sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an examination of the risks and benefits derived from gain-of-function research involving pathogens with pandemic potential. The letter also requests that GAO gather more information about the way “gain-of-function” research is being defined and used by various U.S. agencies. The request is intended to clarify conflicting definitions of the term. Key Letter Excerpts: "The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the debate about the risks and benefits of a type of potentially high-risk research called 'gain-of-function' research involving pathogens with pandemic potential. However, this term is not well understood and is often misused. 'Gain-of-function' is a broad term that covers research that, among other things, involves genetically altering an organism, which may include increasing a pathogen's ability to cause a pandemic. […] "As 'gain-of-function' research could entail biosafety, and public health risks, the risks and benefits of this research must be evaluated to determine which types of studies should go forward and under what conditions. "Further, until we know the tangible outcomes of 'gain-of-function' research, we cannot know if the benefits outweigh the risks." CLICK HERE to read the full letter. Background: This letter builds on the Committee’s investigative efforts on high-risk research, like “gain-of-function” research. On April 27th, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing titled “Biosafety and Risky Research: Examining if Science is Outpacing Policy and Safety.” In June 2023, Committee leaders sent letters to the CDC, HHS, and NIH seeking information on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity safety practices at those agencies. The Committee calls on the Biden administration to increase transparency both in declassifying information related to the origins of COVID-19 and in the U.S. government’s role in funding risky virus research, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 



Jun 23, 2023
COVID-19

Chair Rodgers' Statement on ODNI’s COVID-19 Origins Summary

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) issued the following statement after the Director of National Intelligence released information related to the federal government’s report on the origins of COVID-19: “This Friday night ‘news’ dump of a mere 10-page summary is a slap in the face of Americans who deserve full transparency about what information the government possesses regarding the origins of COVID-19. President Biden should follow through with what Congress has required: to declassify all information we need to help answer one of the most important public health questions of our lifetime. Doing so is critical to holding China accountable for its coverup of the virus’ origin and being prepared to prevent the next pandemic. The American people deserve it. “Perhaps the most important lesson we’ve learned throughout the pandemic is that our government must be honest and forthcoming if we are ever to restore public trust and obtain justice for the victims of the pandemic—both those who lost their lives to the virus and those whose lives were harmed by unscientific lockdowns and mandates. This report fails to live up to either.”  Background:    Congress passed S. 619 , the Covid-19 Origins Act , unanimously in March 2023, which requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassify all information relating to potential links between the origins of COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.   In 2021, Energy & Commerce Republicans called on the Biden administration to declassify information around research conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab. CLICK HERE to read the letter.    In 2022, Chair Rodgers, along with Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), called upon the Biden administration again requesting declassification of reports related to the origins of COVID-19. CLICK HERE to read the letter.   Earlier this year, Chair Rodgers, along with Subcommittee Chairs Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Jeff Duncan (R-SC) renewed requests for the Biden administration to declassify all COVID-19 origins reports.



May 3, 2023
Letter - Health

E&C Republicans Seek Data and Documents from NIH on Early COVID Cases

Committee seeks to improve pandemic preparedness, strengthen grant oversight, and enhance the biosafety of lab and field research  Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on O versight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) today on behalf of the Oversight and Health subcommittee Republican members wrote to Dr. Lawrence Tabak, the senior official who is performing the duties of Director of the Natio nal Institutes of Health (NIH). They requested information to bolster the committee’s ongoing investigation into the origins of COVID-19 regarding any early sequences, data from early cases, or other pertinent documents related to the early phase of the pandemic. The letter follows New York Times April 23, 2023, reporting that the Chinese Communist Party forced a team of scientists from the United States and China to withdraw an early study on COVID-19:  Early in 2020, on the same day that a frightening new illness officially got the name Covid-19, a team of scientists from the United States and China released critical data showing how quickly the virus was spreading, and who was dying.   The study was cited in health warnings around the world and appeared to be a model of international collaboration in a moment of crisis.   Within days, though, the researchers quietly withdrew the paper, which was replaced online by a message telling scientists not to cite it. A few observers took note of the peculiar move, but the whole episode quickly faded amid the frenzy of the coronavirus pandemic.   What is now clear is that the study was not removed because of faulty research. Instead, it was withdrawn at the direction of Chinese health officials amid a crackdown on science. The Chairs’ letter, which serves as a formal notice to preserve all relevant documents and records, requests the following unredacted information by May 17, 2023:  All correspondence between Lili Ren and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) or Genbank in the timeframe from January 1, 2019, to March 15, 2020, as well as any associated data files.  All documents, including the research proposal and progress reports, related to NIH grant R01AI098775.  All documents, including the research proposal and progress reports, related to NIH grant R01AI139092.  The unredacted version of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosure found here .   The unredacted version of the FOIA disclosure found  here . CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Dr. Tabak. 



Apr 27, 2023
Hearings

O&I Subcommittee Chair Griffith Opening Remarks at Hearing on Biosafety and Risky Research

Washington, D.C. —  Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) delivered the following opening remarks during today’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing titled “ Biosafety and Risky Research: Examining if Science is Outpacing Policy and Safety .” Excerpts and highlights below: EXAMINING BIOSAFETY PRACTICES “The subcommittee previously held a hearing on how to quickly identify the root cause of a disease outbreak. “Today’s hearing will examine biosafety practices at high-containment laboratories handling dangerous pathogens. “We will focus on addressing whether advancements in biotech have outpaced our existing biosafety guidelines. And whether or not we are following these guidelines. “The NIH clearly did not enforce those guidelines with research being done for it by EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology into novel coronaviruses. “Our examination of biosafety has to be informed by the real possibility that a pandemic which killed over a million Americans was the result of an incident at a laboratory that received NIH funding.” THE ORIGINS OF COVID-19 “As I have said at past hearings, I believe the available evidence favors COVID-19 emerging due to a lab-related incident. “My belief that COVID-19 came from a lab-leak is now shared by the Department of Energy and the FBI. “But regardless of our individual opinions as to the origins of COVID-19, we in Congress have a responsibility to understand the potential benefits and the perils of this type of research. “As the Committee with authorizing jurisdiction over federal biomedical research, all of us here today have a special responsibility to grapple with these issues. “High containment biosafety labs are expensive and complex to build, maintain, and run. “Research conducted in these laboratories involves pathogens that can cause serious, potentially life-threatening disease and, in the case of biosafety level four (BSL-4) laboratories, diseases for which no vaccine or therapy exist. “It is crazy to me that the Wuhan Institute of Virology appears to have conducted at least some high-risk coronavirus research at a biosafety level 2 lab and did so with US dollars. “In 2000, there were less than ten BSL-4 labs in the world. There are now 59 in operation, under construction or planned. In the United States alone, there are over 1,500 biosafety level 3 facilities. “Rapid advances in biotechnology have opened up potential new cures and expanded our scientific knowledge. “But this has also led to the proliferation of new technologies and research techniques that are inherently dual-use and potentially dangerous if done in inappropriate biosafety conditions. “Balancing safety with innovation is an enduring challenge.” THE EXISTING OVERSIGHT FRAMEWORK ISN’T WORKING “Our existing oversight framework for risky research isn’t working. “Whether we call it gain-of-function research or whether it’s called research with enhanced potential pandemic pathogens, I fear we have not kept pace. “The United States doesn’t have a comprehensive regulatory system for high-containment laboratories. “Practically speaking, the research institutions, companies, and universities that operate these facilities police themselves. “Back in 2017, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy issued guidance, the Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight framework. “But it was intended to apply to all executive branch agencies. It has been implemented by exactly one Department, Health and Human Services. “But, HHS has largely delegated implementation to the NIH, a funding entity who has shown a lack of significant oversight towards risky research with their grantee EcoHealth Alliance and subgrantee the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” THE NIH’S HOSTILITY TO OUTSIDE OVERSIGHT “As the debacle with EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology makes clear, NIH is neither inclined nor equipped to exercise oversight of the risky research it funds within the U.S. or abroad. “NIH is not only indifferent, but reflexively hostile to outside oversight. “NIH has stonewalled and slow-walked our document requests related to the EcoHealth Alliance grant. “Further, how many accidents at high containment labs are unreported? There does not appear to be a government-wide effort to understand the frequency and nature of laboratory accidents. “Since last October, NIH has not provided key information about an in-house National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases gain-of-function experiment involving a highly lethal clade of monkey pox. “NIH won’t even tell us about its deliberations about this experiment. “It makes me wonder what the NIH has to hide. “How bad is it when they won’t even engage with the authorizing committee about this information? “We have to assume there is something they don’t want us to know about, perhaps something very dangerous. “I’ll conclude my opening remarks by noting that the highest-ranking NIH official Dr. Larry Tabak appeared before this Committee in February. “In response to questions about NIH’s failure to enforce biosafety measures it placed on coronavirus research it funded at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Dr. Tabak testified that NIH is not an enforcement agency. “I’m beginning to think he’s right. “It may be time for us in Congress to relieve NIH of the burden of conducting risky research at the institutions it funds.”