EcoHealth Alliance, a corporate-funded nonprofit organization that seeks to uncover novel viruses in the environment, has been working in China for decades, trapping bats and looking for previously unknown coronaviruses that could lead to a global pandemic.1
This may come as a surprise to many, but even more surprising is the fact that the research was carried out via a grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).2
While the grant was initially supposed to continue through 2024, it was cut off in April 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic gained steam, and U.S. intelligence agencies started to look into whether the coronavirus that started it all escaped from a biological laboratory in Wuhan, China.3
EcoHealth Alliance collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology for years, collecting coronavirus samples from bats and investigating whether they could jump to humans,4 and the NIH told the nonprofit that the project “no longer fit with NIH goals and priorities.”5
In August 2020, however, the NIH pivoted, granting a new $7.5 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance — part of an $82 million award being split among 11 research teams looking into the origins of viruses and how they infect people. The controversial move means that EcoHealth Alliance’s work will continue, this time targeting Southeast Asia instead of China.6
EcoHealth Alliance’s Controversial Gain-of-Function Research
Gain-of-function (GOF) research refers to studies that have the potential to enhance the ability of pathogens to cause disease, including enhancing either their pathogenicity or transmissibility.7 Such research is by its very nature controversial, since there are clear risks should the information be misused or the pathogens escape (or are maliciously released).
Further, Jonathan Latham, Ph.D., a molecular biologist and virologist and Allison Wilson, Ph.D., a geneticist, believe gain-of-function research performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology played "an essential causative role in the pandemic."8 Peter Daszak, EcoHealth Alliance president, however, said that the funding cut to their China bat research project would pose a threat to the U.S. public health.
"Once this pandemic is over, we know of hundreds of other coronaviruses that we've found evidence of in China that are waiting to emerge," Daszak said in an interview with NPR. "We are now going to be unable to know about the risk of that, which puts us completely at risk of the next pandemic."9
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the NIH, has also long backed dangerous GOF coronavirus research, including that conducted by EcoHealth Alliance. According to Newsweek:10
"Just last year , the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID], the organization led by Dr. Fauci, funded scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutions for work on gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.
In 2019, with the backing of NIAID, the National Institutes of Health committed $3.7 million over six years for research that included some gain-of-function work. The program followed another $3.7 million, 5-year project for collecting and studying bat coronaviruses, which ended in 2019, bringing the total to $7.4 million.
Many scientists have criticized gain of function research, which involves manipulating viruses in the lab to explore their potential for infecting humans, because it creates a risk of starting a pandemic from accidental release."
Daszak to Lead COVID-19 Task Force
Outrageously, Daszak has also been appointed to lead a task force examining whether COVID-19 may have leaked from a lab, as part of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission, which is looking into a variety of issues surrounding the pandemic and offering practical solutions.11 Part of the commission’s goal is to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and avert future zoonotic pandemics.
While Daszak said he would head the investigation with an open mind, critics such as Filippa Lentzos, an expert on biological threats at King’s College London, wrote on Twitter, “Goodness. I can't imagine a lead investigator with more vested interests!”12,13
Not only has Daszak been widely criticized for spreading misinformation surrounding the origins of COVID-19 previously, but his longtime collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been identified as the most probable source of a laboratory leak, is a glaring conflict of interest. If it’s found that COVID-19 did, in fact, leak from a lab, the work of Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance could come under fire, and future funding could be put in jeopardy.
As reported in GM Watch, “… if more scientists fail to speak out against his appointment as the Lancet Commission’s lead investigator, it will reflect the success of a censorship strategy that has not just allowed Daszak to evade serious scrutiny but to be put in charge of investigating himself and his associates.”14