U.S. Grant Gave Money to the Wuhan Lab to Enhance Coronaviruses, the Decision Wasn't Even Scrutinized

Li Xueren/Xinhua via AP

The United States gave a grant of $600,000 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the decision wasn’t even scrutinized by the agency Dr. Anthony Fauci heads up. This per a new report from The Daily Caller which lays out in detail exactly how the transfer happened and the lack of oversight involved.

(related Lawmakers Call for Investigation Into ‘Secretive’ NIH Payments to Wuhan Lab)

An oversight board created to scrutinize research that would enhance highly dangerous pathogens did not review a National Institutes of Health grant that funded a lab in Wuhan, China, to genetically modify bat-based coronaviruses.

Experts say the NIH grant describes scientists conducting gain-of-function research, a risky area of study that, in this case, made SARS-like viruses even more contagious. Federal funding for gain-of-function research was temporarily suspended in 2014 due to widespread scientific concerns it risked leaking supercharged viruses into the human population.

As the report notes, this kind of research was suspended for several years due to concerns deadly viruses could leak out of these labs. Though that hasn’t been conclusively shown to be what happened with COVID-19, there has been circumstantial evidence to suggest an unintentional leak from the Wuhan lab was the cause.

Despite the danger involved in studying bat-coronaviruses, the grant was not scrutinized by the P3CO commission, which exists to look into whether research enhancing pathogens is safe and worth the risk.

Had EcoHealth’s grant been subjected to P3CO review, an HHS panel would have independently evaluated the grant and, if necessary, recommended additional biocontainment measures to prevent potential lab leaks — or even recommended that the grant be denied entirely.

There are a lot of different ways to take this news. Mine is fairly simple — why are we giving money to a communist laboratory in Wuhan, China in the first place? Forget all the theories or fights over how and why COVID-19 ended up a global pandemic. It would certainly be a big coincidence that the WIV was studying and enhancing bat-based coronaviruses at the same time one makes it into the general population, but I suppose it’s possible it actually came from a bat that exists in the wild hundreds of miles away

Regardless, the use of federal funding in this instance should be heavily criticized. China is not our friend. Their goals are not our goals. We do not need the Chinese to study pathogens. There is no reason we should be giving them over half a million dollars of U.S. taxpayer money to do anything, much less do something as dangerous as enhancing coronaviruses.

None of this should be controversial, in my view. There needs to be a real reckoning at the appropriations level for how much money is given to foreign entities and why they are given it. Whether this grant played a direct role in creating what we now call COVID-19, we will likely never know. The Chinese aren’t going to allow a real investigation. But that this isn’t even a question is something that was completely preventable.