Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he doesn’t know why the White House asked the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to stop funding a project that studied how coronaviruses spread from bats to humans.
“Why was it canceled? It was canceled because the NIH was told to cancel it,” Fauci told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday. “I don’t know the reason but we were told to stop it,” he said in response to a question during the committee hearing.
An NIH spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Wednesday that the funding was being directed through EcoHealth Alliance Inc., an international non-profit, to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the East China Normal University in Shanghai, the Institute of Pathogen Biology at Beijing, and the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.
The spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the institute can’t elaborate on why the grant was terminated because it “does not discuss internal deliberations on grant terminations.”
“Upon termination, the funds were restricted in the HHS Payment Management System, and the funds are no longer available to EcoHealth Alliance. The remaining balance of $369,819.56 will be returned to NIH,” said the spokesperson.
The Trump administration cut funding to EcoHealth in April, with $350,000 still left in the grant, after reports emerged about an alleged connection between the Wuhan institute and the origin of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on April 17, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)
EcoHealth, which works in 30 countries, said in a statement in late April that the research was helpful in designing vaccines and drugs against COVID-19 and other coronavirus-related diseases.
“In fact, genetic sequences of two bat coronaviruses that we discovered with this grant have been used as lab tools to test the breakthrough antiviral drug Remdesivir,” it said in the statement.
President Donald Trump said at the time that his administration was going to look into funding provided to the Chinese research institutes.
“I’ve been hearing about that. And we’ve instructed that if any grants are going to that area—we’re looking at it, literally, about an hour ago, and also early in the morning. We will end that grant very quickly,” Trump said in a press briefing on April 17.
Two days later, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer directed EcoHealth to stop all payments to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in a letter obtained by Breitbart News.
“There are now allegations that the current crisis was precipitated by the release from WIV of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Given these concerns, we are pursuing suspension of WIV from participation in Federal programs,” wrote Lauer.
The NIH official wrote in the letter that the suspension is temporary as the matter is being investigated.
“While we review these allegations during the period of suspension, you are instructed to cease providing any funds from the above-noted grant to the WIV,” Lauer said in the letter.
“This temporary action is authorized by 45 C.F.R. § 75.371 (d) (‘Initiate suspension or debarment proceedings as authorized under 2 C.F.R. part 180’). The incorporated OMB provision provides that the federal funding agency, through suspension, immediately and temporarily exclude from Federal programs persons who are not presently responsible where ‘immediate action is necessary to protect the public interest.’ 2 C.F.R. § 180.700 (c).”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to questions about an update on the funding and the investigation.