NIH Failed To Monitor EcoHealth Alliance: Federal Watchdog
After an 18-month audit, a federal watchdog says that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) failed to adequately monitor and address problems involving EcoHealth Alliance, a New York City-based nonprofit that was used to offshore risky gain-of-function research to Wuhan, China after the Obama administration banned the practice in 2014.
According to the report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the "NIH did not effectively monitor or take timely action to address" compliance issues with EcoHealth.
In April 2020, after then-President Donald Trump claimed the SARS-CoV-2 virus could have come from the WIV lab, NIH terminated the EcoHealth grant with little explanation. That step was widely condemned by scientists, and OIG’s report now says NIH improperly executed the termination because it did not provide a valid reason or provide EcoHealth with required information for appealing the decision.
A few months later, NIH reinstated the award but immediately suspended it, setting conditions for resumption that EcoHealth said it could not meet. NIH permanently terminated the WIV subaward as of August 2022 for compliance issues, including WIV’s failure to provide NIH with laboratory notebooks related to the funded experiments. -Science
The audit examined the above grant, as well as two others from 2014 to 2021 which totaled $8 million, but largely focused on $600,000 of it which went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The NIH faulted EcoHealth for failing to promptly report gain-of-function results in some experiments, however the company has blamed a computer glitch at NIH for the 2-year delay.
Digging into the report is US Right to Know's Emily Kopp, who has broken down various aspects of the OIG report.
EcoHealth would like you to believe it had technical issues for four years straight— Emily Kopp (@emilyakopp) January 26, 2023
HHS OIG: 🙄 pic.twitter.com/H0gZjzCWh7
The 2018 report lists scientific publications including 2019 and 2020 papers— Emily Kopp (@emilyakopp) January 26, 2023
The 2019 report lists zero papers pic.twitter.com/CzwHlbqAVu
How does EcoHealth get away with this?— Emily Kopp (@emilyakopp) January 26, 2023
Oversight from Fauci’s NIAID was non-existent.
NIAID awarded new funds to EcoHealth in 2020 before they received either of these overdue progress reports.
The only reason EcoHealth filed the 1st report was because @fastlerner FOIA’d it. pic.twitter.com/Er2fQTLkCV
The line we often hear from NIH is that EcoHealth’s reported gain-of-function research could not have sparked the pandemic.— Emily Kopp (@emilyakopp) January 26, 2023
But given (1) the sloppiness of the reports (2) the lateness of their submission to NIH, I do not believe we have a complete picture of EcoHealth’s work.
Meanwhile, the audit also found that the nonprofit billed NIH for $89,171 in disallowed costs, including expenses such as alcohol, and a staffer's $3,285 trip to a conference that was miscoded, and should have instead been billed to a non-NIH grant.
The OIG recommends that the WIV (but not EcoHealth) be banned from receiving future NIH funds.
Meanwhile, EcoHealth just scored a fresh $3 million grant from the Department of Defense.
EcoHealth Alliance currently has federal contracts and grants from USAID, DoD-DTRA, DoD-USU, DHS, NIAID, and NSF.— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) January 21, 2023