U.S. Bars Peter Daszak from Funding for ‘Improper Conduct’ at Wuhan Lab

EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak appears during a House Select Subcommittee h
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The administration of President Joe Biden suspended Peter Daszak, a key figure in the still-murky evolution of the Wuhan coronavirus, and his EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) from federal funding for failing to adequately monitor the activities it supported at the now-infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

The announcement was encouraging news for critics who have long suspected Daszak played some role in unleashing the novel coronavirus on the world and has been laboring to cover up his involvement ever since the pandemic.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiated the process of banning EHA from receiving federal funds last Wednesday, after “a thorough investigation determined that there is adequate evidence that EHA has not been compliant with federal regulations and grant terms and conditions.”

An HHS spokesperson said last week that EHA did not fulfill its responsibilities to provide “oversight of the activities of its sub-awardees.”

The most notorious of those sub-awardees was the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese laboratory that stunned the world by refusing to hand over key documents and samples pertaining to the research it was conducting on chimeric viruses.

Daszak, a British zoologist, was among the participants in an embarrassing World Health Organization (W.H.O.) “fact-finding mission” in 2021 controlled and stage-managed by the Chinese Communist Party. Although Daszak and some other team members initially sought to portray the mission as successful, the amount of information withheld by China and the minimal amount of time China gave the team to visit the WIV became international scandals, given the magnitude of the coronavirus disaster. W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus publicly criticized the effort as insufficiently “extensive.”

Daszak was the driving force between another whitewash that has since become a worldwide scandal in the scientific community, an enormously influential letter published in the Lancet in February 2020 that marginalized the lab-leak theory of the origin of “SARS-CoV-2,” the novel coronavirus that caused the 2020 pandemic, as a wild conspiracy theory and argued for natural origins.

The letter included a false disclaimer that none of its 27 signatories had any “competing interests” in discussing the origins of the coronavirus. Daszak most certainly did, to the tune of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, as the Lancet subsequently admitted under intense pressure – and as the HHS debarment actions make crystal clear.

Daszak’s piece has since been shredded by skeptics as poorly reasoned and researched and, in the years since then, little evidence for natural origin has been found, while both scientists and government officials have become increasingly open to considering the lab leak theory.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic reviewed classified State Department documents earlier this month that “credibly suggest COVID-19 originated from a lab related accident in Wuhan,” and “strongly convey that the Chinese Communist Party attempted to cover-up the lab leak.” 

The documents had previously been released to the public in heavily redacted form, but the subcommittee argued for full declassification to give the American people “a more complete picture of the government’s evidence regarding the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The full truth of the Wuhan coronavirus’s origins remains elusive, but Daszak’s strident insistence that a lab leak was impossible has not aged well at all.

In her letter last week, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisitions Katrina Brisbon cited a number of instances in which NIH requested records that EHA did not provide. EHA delayed some records submissions to NIH for almost two years and some requests from 2021 still have not been delivered.

The NIH essentially challenged EHA and WIV to disprove that their partnership involved gain-of-function research on novel viruses, which would violate the terms of EHA’s federal grants. Neither Daszak’s group nor the Chinese virus lab provided the requested proof, so NIH concluded that WIV’s violation of “protocols regarding biosafety” was “undisputed.”

“I find that the information in the record constitutes adequate evidence to demonstrate that the immediate suspension of EHA is necessary to protect the public interest,” Brisbon concluded.

On Tuesday, HHS sent another letter to Daszak holding him personally responsible for EHA’s failure to properly monitor research on enhanced viruses conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“The alleged conduct of EHA is imputed to you, because during all or part of the time relevant, you participated in, knew of, or had reason to know of EHA’s improper conduct, through your role as the President of EHA,” the letter said.

Daszak is expected to be banned from receiving federal funding for at least three years, although HHS said his debarment could last for “a longer period, or shorter period, as the circumstances warrant.”

Both Republican and Democrat members of the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic applauded the debarment actions.

“I welcome the Administration’s announcement that it has suspended and initiated the termination of federal funding for EcoHealth Alliance. Every recipient of federal taxpayer funding has an obligation to meet the utmost standards of transparency and accountability to the American public,” ranking member Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) said last week.

“EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak’s personal debarment will ensure he never again receives a single cent from U.S. taxpayers nor has the opportunity to start a new, untrustworthy organization,” declared subcommittee chair Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) on Tuesday.

“The Select Subcommittee intends to hold Dr. Daszak accountable for any dishonesty and reminds him that this debarment decision does not preclude him from producing all outstanding documents and answering all the questions from this Congressional body,” Rep. Wenstrup said.

Daszak told Rep. Wenstrup’s committee this month that EHA partnered with China’s “leading virology lab in Wuhan” to conduct research, “just as many other U.S. government-funded institutions have done,” but denied this work had anything to do with the Wuhan coronavirus.

“Viruses that we identified in bats in China were used by US labs during the Covid pandemic to test drugs, vaccines and therapies that saved countless lives,” he insisted.

Two weeks after Daszak testified, the subcommittee heard testimony from NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, who “offered substantial evidence that Dr. Daszak purposefully misled both the NIH and the Select Subcommittee about EcoHealth’s efforts to comply with grant procedures.”

“Dr. Lawrence Tabak repeatedly refuted EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak’s public and private testimonies. It is now clear that Dr. Daszak misled both the Select Subcommittee and the NIH on numerous occasions,” the subcommittee said.

Tabak’s testimony appears to have been the last straw for some members of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. Rep. Wenstrup alluded to the Tabak hearing several times in his statements on the debarment of EHA and Daszak, while members such as Rep. Ruiz seemed much less inclined to give EHA the benefit of any doubt afterward. Ruiz insisted on granting the presumption of innocence to EHA at the beginning of the month, but last week he applauded the cutoff of federal funding.

Rep. Wenstrup said on Tuesday that Daszak’s activities since 2020 demonstrated his “contempt for the American people, his flagrant disregard for the risks associated with gain-of-function research, and his willful violation of the terms of his NIH grant.”

“Dr. Daszak’s impending debarment does not shield him from accountability to the American people. It appears that Dr. Daszak may have lied under oath about his relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and his compliance with NIH grant procedures,” he said.

Rep. Wenstrup called EHA’s conduct “wholly abhorrent” and “indefensible” when HHS announced the debarment of the alliance, characterizing EHA as a “corrupt organization” and hinting that his subcommittee intends to get to the bottom of its corruption.

“We will hold EcoHealth accountable for any waste, fraud, and abuse and are committed to uncovering any illegal activity, including lying to Congress, NIH, or the Inspector General,” he vowed.


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