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Dozens of Republican members of Congress wrote a letter to National Institutes of Health Acting Inspector General Christi Grimm on Tuesday demanding a “prompt and thorough investigation” into the NIH’s relationship with a Chinese lab that studied coronaviruses.
The 28 lawmakers demanded Grimm investigate the total amount of funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has received from the NIH, as well as whether any NIH officials communicated with the lab or its U.S. sponsor at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to quell debate surrounding the theory that the virus could have accidentally escaped from the lab.
Researchers at the WIV were studying bat-based coronaviruses prior to the outbreak, a project partially backed by $600,000 in U.S. taxpayer funds routed to the lab through NIH subgrants from the nonprofit group EcoHealth Alliance.
The president of EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, was the sole U.S. member of the World Health Organization panel that investigated the pandemic’s origin in China and reported in February that it’s highly unlikely that COVID-19 could have leaked from the WIV. Just weeks before the first known cases in Wuhan in December 2019, Daszak appeared on a podcast discussing how easy it was to manipulate bat-based coronaviruses through the gain of function research.