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NIH ordered to cancel coronavirus research funding by White House, Dr Fauci tells Congress

Published on 25/06/20 at 10:12am
Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

The National Institutes of Health had its funding cut from a research project into bat coronavirus, according its Director Dr Anthony Fauci.

Fauci revealed this at a Congressional hearing on the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with speculation that the virus jumped to humans from a bat.  Republican Representative of Congress Marc Veasey asked why the NIH had cancelled this funding, to which the Director replied: ““It was cancelled because the NIH was told to cancel it. I don’t know the reason, but we were told to cancel it.”

Fauci later clarified to Politico it was the White House that told the NIH to cancel the funding. A White House source also told the outlet that the Trump administration had encouraged an end to the funding but it was the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which the NIH is a part of, which made the decision.

The government had originally given the NIH a grant in 2014 to research bat coronaviruses, and this was renewed for another five years in 2019 after receiving an outstanding peer-review score. However, the promised funding was scrapped in April, with many blaming the influence of conspiracy theories pushed by American conservatives.

The research was run by EcoHealth Alliance Inc but also collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, which has become the centre of conspiracy theories about COVID-19’s origins. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that there is explicit evidence that COVID-19 was created in a lab in Wuhan. He told ABC’s This Week program, on 3 May, that: “There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began. I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan. The best experts so far seem to think it was manmade. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point.”

Days before this, Pompeo told Simon Conway on Newsradio 1040, that: “We don’t know if it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We don’t know if it emanated from the wet market or yet some other place. We don’t know those answers.”

Following Fauci’s comments, Peter Daszak, the President of EcoHealth, said the end of the funding was “obvious political interference” and tweeted: “Eventually, we’ll all know the shoddy truth of how a conspiracy theory pushed by this administration led @NIHDirector to block the only US research group still working in China to analyze COVID origins. Thanks to this China can now do the research, we can’t!”

Conor Kavanagh

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