The following is an excerpt from Nature.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reinstated a grant to a highly scrutinized research organization that studies bat coronaviruses — but the agency has placed several stipulations on the scope of the research and on the organization’s accounting practices.
The move caps a years-long saga that has thrust the EcoHealth Alliance, a small non-profit organization in New York City, into the political fray for its collaborations with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China.
In April 2020, after then-US-president Donald Trump hinted that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a WIV laboratory, the NIH terminated EcoHealth’s grant.
Its goal was to study how coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, jump from bats to humans.
A few months later, the NIH reinstated and immediately suspended the award until certain conditions were met that, at the time, EcoHealth said were impossible to complete.
Researchers who spoke to Nature applaud the renewal, adding that this type of research is essential to avert the next pandemic.
They claim that the NIH’s termination and subsequent suspension were politically motivated, and that, although long overdue, this renewal ends — for now — a drama-filled exchange between the agency and EcoHealth.
Although the organization will now be able to continue its bat coronavirus research for the first time since the saga began, the NIH placed an extensive list of restrictions on the four-year, US$2.9-million award. None of the researchers who spoke to Nature had ever seen a grant with so many stipulations.
Among other things, EcoHealth is specifically forbidden from performing any in-country research in China, including with the WIV, or collecting any new samples from vertebrates — such as bats.
The revised grant also mandates greater scrutiny of EcoHealth’s finances and accounting practices, driven in part by a federal watchdog report, released in January, finding that EcoHealth had misreported about $90,000 in expenses
Congressional Republicans have alleged that this research, which involved attaching spike proteins from wild bat coronaviruses to an unrelated virus to determine whether the wild pathogens could infect human airway cells, should have undergone HHS review.
Anthony Fauci, then-director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, has said the agency concluded that these experiments did not meet the bar to undergo such review, and noted that the WIV did not intend to enhance the viruses.
Read more here.
Visit the Lemonade Mermaid Store today
Original and Custom items for Land or Sea Mermaids