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House Republicans launch investigation into Covid origins


Non-governmental organisation included in investigation strongly rebuts Republicans’ assertions

Republicans in the House of Representatives have launched an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and the use of taxpayer money for coronavirus research.

Brad Wenstrup, chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, and James Comer, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, this month accused senior officials of a “cover-up” around what the chairs said was the funnelling of US public funding to China “to conduct risky research”.

They called for information from former chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci and from leaders of the EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based non-governmental organisation whose stated aim is to support research into pandemic prevention.

Their move follows an initial request for information sent in December by House Republicans including Comer, with both requests claiming that there is increasing evidence that the virus causing Covid-19 originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

“Understanding the origins of Covid-19 is essential to providing accountability and protecting Americans in the future,” said Comer this month. “We know EcoHealth Alliance acted as a middleman, improperly funnelling thousands of taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan lab to conduct risky gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses which could have started the pandemic.”

“We will continue to follow the facts to determine what could have been done differently…and hold US government officials that took part in any sort of cover-up accountable.”

Strong rebuttal

A spokesperson for the EcoHealth Alliance told Research Professional News that the group had been in contact with the committees to provide the information requested.

They said that “a number of baseless allegations” had been made about the origins of Covid-19.

“Evidence does not ‘continue to mount pointing to the virus leaking from an insecure lab in Wuhan’,” they said. “In fact, expert scientists who have reviewed the evidence have found no data supporting this hypothesis.”

Statements that the EcoHealth Alliance “improperly funnelled thousands of taxpayer dollars” to the Wuhan Institute of Virology “are also untrue”, the spokesperson said.

“EcoHealth Alliance did provide funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but this was done as part of a standard sub-award of a National Institutes of Health research grant,” they continued. “Neither EcoHealth Alliance nor the Wuhan Institute of Virology conducted gain-of-function research using National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant funds.”

Gain-of-function research is work that aims to alter viruses in ways that could affect their ability to cause disease, as a way of increasing knowledge. It has been posited by some as a potential source of Covid-19, although the suggestion is highly controversial.

Research Professional News has asked government offices including the National Institutes of Health and Fauci’s office for comment.