Committee Leaders Raise Questions After Abrupt Termination of Federal Coronavirus Research Grant
Today, leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Science, Space, and Technology Committee sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar expressing concerns about the Trump Administration’s termination of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant awarded to EcoHealth Alliance that supported research on bats and coronaviruses. The Committee leaders requested a briefing on the details surrounding the termination of the award. Press reports have alleged that the grant was canceled because a portion of the funding was to be given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for on-the-ground research.
The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight Chairman Bill Foster (D-IL).
“Given the potential for this study to inform our knowledge of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission, it is deeply concerning that it may have been canceled for political reasons in the midst of the current pandemic,” the Committee leaders wrote in the letter. “It is always important that federal research priorities are driven by science-based decisions. This is especially true in a time that requires unparalleled investment in research that may help bring an end to this public health crisis.”
“As the Committees of jurisdiction over public health and science, we need to better understand the decision to terminate EcoHealth Alliance’s NIH grant,” the Committee leaders continued. “We are especially concerned given Dr. Anthony Fauci’s, Director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, assertion at a Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on June 23 that ‘the grant was canceled because NIH was told to cancel it.’ In order to understand how this decision was reached, we request a briefing to be delivered by July 15, 2020.”
The full letter is available here.