Senators urge US agency to halt funding for EcoHealth Alliance

A group of senators are urging a US agency to cut funding to the nonprofit that funneled money for years to a lab in China.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and eight colleagues called on U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power to withhold money from three grants totaling millions of dollars to EcoHealth Alliance, the New York-based agency. nonprofit that has close ties with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“USAID is empowered by federal law and policy to immediately suspend its awards to EcoHealth,” wrote Marshall and the other senators (pdf) to Power, a Biden appointee, on Sept. 14.

They cited federal law that allows suspension of awards when deemed in the public interest.

“It is therefore incumbent upon USAID to be responsible stewards of US taxpayer funds, to help protect foreign researchers from risk, and to immediately suspend all awards to EcoHealth. The suspension will allow time for USAID to investigate EcoHealth’s oversight of foreign research programs, including the inventory of laboratory accidents and adverse events resulting in researcher illness, record-keeping audits, and assurance that EcoHealth complies with federal attribution requirements,” they wrote.

USAID did not respond to a request for comment. EcoHealth did not return any queries.

Ongoing grants

EcoHealth has received dozens of grants over the years, 13 of which are still active, according to the US Grants Database. USAID principal 72066921CA00006 is $4.7 million to “support equitable, long-term economic growth and advance U.S. foreign policy goals by supporting economic growth, agriculture, and trade; global health; and democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian aid.

EcoHealth also receives money as a USAID subrecipient through two other grants.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which awarded several of the active grants, recently terminated EcoHealth’s subgrant to the Wuhan lab because Chinese authorities refused to provide requested records to US authorities.

The agency, however, allows EcoHealth to correct the failures and retain the award.

The Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the National Science Foundation provided the other active grants to EcoHealth.

The other grants are for work such as research on the “risk of zoonotic spread”, dynamics and genetics of Nipah virus in bat reservoirs, and reducing emerging health threats in Tanzania.

A spokesperson for DTRA, which has the most active awards for EcoHealth, declined to comment immediately on whether the agency would review the awards in light of the nonprofit’s non-compliance with the NIH.

EcoHealth violations included failing to allow access to Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) records and financial statements. EcoHealth maintained that it did not have the records, a claim the senators questioned in the new letter.

“Despite reporting to NIH that they have no WIV records, EcoHealth as a partner in the PREDICT consortium reported accomplishments in 2020 that through fall 2019 they have trained 80 scientists Chinese, sampled more than 7,300 animals and people, and strengthened the WIV laboratory and the Institute. of microbiology by performing 39,137 tests for viral pathogens,” the group said, pointing to a report (pdf) researchers.

Meaning. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn .), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined Marshall in signing the missive.


Zachary Stieber covers US and world news. He is based in Maryland.