Economy

Disgraced EcoHealth Alliance reaped nearly $100M in taxpayer funds since 2008

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EcoHealth Alliance – the disgraced research firm accused of using taxpayer funds to conduct gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab before the COVID-19 pandemic began – received nearly $100 million from the federal government over the past decade and a half.

From FY 2008 to FY 2024, the U.S. government provided EcoHealth Alliance an estimated $94.3 million in taxpayer funds through contracts, grants, direct payments, loans and other financial assistance, according to a Fox News Digital review of government spending data provided by USAspending.gov.

Fox News Digital reported last year that millions of dollars in federal research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were awarded to the nonprofit to study bat coronaviruses in China. The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general released a 64-page report in January 2023 that found NIH did not adequately follow its policies and procedures with respect to three grants to EcoHealth Alliance between 2014 and 2021, totaling about $8 million.

As for the total number of taxpayer dollars given by the federal government to EcoHealth Alliance since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University and a harsh critic of NIH, placed the number at upwards of $50 million.

‘The U.S.-government has provided more than $50 million to EcoHealth just since the start of the pandemic, with most of that $50 million earmarked for the same kinds of reckless virus discovery and virus enhancement research that likely caused pandemic,’ Ebright said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

Government agencies who gave the most funding to EcoHealth, according to Ebright, are the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense and NIH.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented an immediate, government-wide suspension of all funds allocated to EcoHealth.

HHS made the decision, citing evidence included in the House COVID Select Subcommittee’s staff-level report on the nonprofit. According to HHS, EcoHealth willfully violated the terms of a multimillion-dollar NIH grant. 

At the time, a spokesperson for EcoHealth Alliance told Fox News Digital that it was ‘disappointed by HHS’ decision.’

‘We disagree strongly with the decision and will present evidence to refute each of these allegations and to show that NIH’s continued support of EcoHealth Alliance is in the public interest,’ the spokesperson told Fox News Digital.

That comment came prior to a decision by HHS to commence formal debarment proceedings against Dr. Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance, earlier this week.

In a Tuesday letter to Daszak, a suspension and debarment official for HHS wrote, ‘This is to provide notification that, on behalf of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, I have suspended you and proposed you for debarment, related to your respective roles as the President of EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. and as Program Director/Principal Investigator on the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease … from participating in United States Federal Government procurement and nonprocurement programs.’

In an action referral memorandum, which cited several examples of EcoHealth’s failure to comply with certain grant procedures, the same official wrote, ‘I find that the information in the record constitutes adequate evidence to demonstrate that the immediate suspension of Dr. Peter Daszak is necessary to protect the public interest provided his role as the President of EHA . . . .’

The memorandum also pointed to EHA’s work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) as a reason for the proposal of debarment proceedings against Daszak.

A review of EcoHealth’s work, submitted two years late on August 3, 2021, showed that work at the Wuhan Institute ‘had possibly yielded a greater’ increase in viral activity, ‘in violation of the terms of the grant,’ the memorandum said.

Following the commencement of debarment proceedings, an EcoHealth Alliance spokesperson told Fox News that the U.S.-based nonprofit ‘did not support ‘gain-of-function’ research at WIV’ and that any ‘assertions to the contrary are based either on misinterpretation, or willful misrepresentation of the actual research conducted.’

‘Because the SARS-related research conducted by EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology dealt with bat coronaviruses that had never been shown to infect people, let alone cause significant morbidity and/or mortality in humans, by definition it was not gain-of-function research,’ the spokesperson added. ‘The fact is that the bat coronavirus research conducted by EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology could not have started the COVID-19 pandemic.’

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