Biden Announces Investigation Into Wuhan Lab Grants

( Finally, a federal watchdog will look into grants federal agencies give to support research that’s conducted overseas.

This week, it was announced that the watchdog will investigate the oversight of grants that is conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The announcement was made by the Office of Inspector General at Health and Human Services.

In recent months, Republicans have claimed that the NIH funneled money into illegal research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. Those claims have gained more weight lately, as the medical community has continued to question the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The relevant theory is that the virus escaped out of a lab in Wuhan, and not from a wet market — as China has claimed.

Roughly 80% of funding from the NIH supports research grants. Some of those grants are subawards that support research that’s conducted outside of the Unite States.

The OIG said it believes that oversight by the NIH of grants to applicants from foreign countries could pose a risk to the goals of the program. They also believe there could be an issue with how these federal funds are being appropriated.

As such, the OIG is going to review how NIH monitors some grants, and whether they are doing so according to federal requirements. The OIG said it expects to issue a report of its findings sometime next year.

A spokeswoman for the OIG, Tesia Williams, sent a statement to The Hill that read:

“We share stakeholders’ concerns regarding compliance and oversight of NIH grant funds. We have been monitoring this issue for some time and consider it a high-priority matter that can pose a threat to the integrity of the NIH grant program.

“Based on our preliminary research and analysis, HHS-OIG has decided to conduct an extensive audit reviewing how NIH monitored selected grants and how the grantees and subgrantees used and managed federal funds between the years 2014 through 2021.”

One area that Republicans have focused on is the NIH’s relationship with EcoHealth Alliance, a global non-profit organization. They believe that through this relationship, the NIH, and its leader Dr. Anthony Fauci, funded controversial research in Wuhan, China, that led to the novel coronavirus being created and then escaping from the lab.

Between 2014 and 2019, NIH gave EcoHealth Alliance a $3.4 million grant. Under that contract, the Wuhan Institute of Virology received a subgrant of $600,000. That money was given so the lab could study bat coronaviruses over a five-year period.

Last April, former President Donald Trump terminated that contract after the lab escape theory first emerged for the coronavirus. While many people thought Trump, and other Republicans who supported his position, were crazy at the time, public health officials in the U.S. are starting to come around to the possibility that it could have happened.

Thus far, there hasn’t been any evidence that the virus jumped from animals to humans, as the Chinese have alleged.