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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has initiated formal debarment proceedings against Dr. Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance, due to the organization’s use of taxpayer funds to conduct gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab before the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension on funding for EcoHealth Alliance was implemented following this move. In a letter to Daszak, an HHS official stated that the suspension and proposed debarment are related to his roles in both EcoHealth Alliance and as a Program Director/Principal Investigator on a National Institutes of Health grant. The decision was made based on the organization’s failure to comply with grant procedures.

The action referral memorandum cited examples of EcoHealth’s noncompliance with grant procedures, highlighting the organization’s work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) as a reason for the proposed debarment proceedings against Daszak. A review of EcoHealth’s work at the Wuhan Institute revealed an increase in viral activity that violated the terms of the grant. Despite being given opportunities to disprove this finding, both EcoHealth and the Wuhan Institute failed to do so. The National Institutes of Health concluded that the research likely violated biosafety protocols, further supporting the debarment proceedings against Daszak.

Congressional lawmakers had previously criticized EcoHealth Alliance for using taxpayer funds to conduct gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Following the announcement of Dr. Daszak’s debarment, Committee Chair Brad Wenstrup stated that this action ensures he will no longer receive funding from U.S. taxpayers and will not have the opportunity to start a new organization. The House COVID committee called for a criminal probe into gain-of-function virus research in Wuhan, emphasizing the importance of holding Daszak accountable for any dishonesty.

HHS suspended allocated funds to EcoHealth Alliance last week, noting that the organization willfully violated the terms of a multimillion-dollar NIH grant. EcoHealth Alliance had received millions of dollars in grants from the NIH, and U.S. taxpayer funds were directed to Chinese entities conducting coronavirus research through the organization. This included funding for research on the transmission of bat coronaviruses to humans, as well as disease surveillance activities at Wuhan University. Former U.S. government officials confirmed that the taxpayer money was not approved for gain-of-function research.

The decision to debar Dr. Peter Daszak comes after mounting evidence of the organization’s lack of compliance with grant procedures and ongoing risks associated with gain-of-function research. The actions taken by HHS highlight the importance of accountability and transparency in the use of taxpayer funds for scientific research. As investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, it is crucial to ensure that proper oversight is in place to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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