Rep. Estes Applauds Funding Suspension to Gain-of-function Research Group with Wuhan Ties

WASHINGTON – Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kansas) released the following statement after Health and Human Services announced the suspension of funding to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc., a research group with ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology that participated in gain-of-function research without proper oversight and in violation of requirements.
"In 2020, our world was turned upside down starting with a virus that's origins were covered up by the Chinese Communist Party and even a cabal of disingenuous U.S. officials. Americans deserved the truth, and I pressed for answers about COVID-19's origins and the United States' funding of gain-of-function research. It's clear that what we were told directly by HHS Secretary Becerra in 2022 that 'NIH never supported any gain-of-function research, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China,' was not true as HHS has now announced official debarment proceedings and a government-wide suspension of U.S. taxpayer funds to EcoHealth – an organization that facilitated gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China. I'm grateful for the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and Chairman Brad Wenstrup's (R-Ohio) persistence in uncovering the truth that will end our country's involvement in funding a reckless pseudo-science lab."
Rep. Estes questioned HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on June 8, 2021, asking, "What we're hearing and understanding is that there was a direct grant of $600,000 and an additional $3.5 million of NIH funds through EcoHealth. Can you confirm how much NIH spending went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, whether directly or through other companies?" Secretary Becerra answered, saying, "I'll simply echo – repeat what Dr. Fauci and what Dr. Collins have said repeatedly, and that is that the NIH never approved funding for gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology." Rep. Estes followed up with a letter on Oct. 25, 2021, stating that Secretary Becerra's testimony contradicted the October 20, 2021, House Committee on Oversight and Reform testimony of NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, asking, "Were you duly informed of the NIH's enforcement efforts to bring EcoHealth into compliance prior to your testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee?" Rep. Estes also asked, "What repercussions do you intend to seek to hold EcoHealth and the NIH accountable for the failure to comply with/enforce the terms of the federal grants issued?" In a December 20, 2021, response, Secretary Becerra downplayed the gain-of-function research and wrote, "NIH has been and continues to engage in compliance activities regarding the EcoHealth Alliance grant. NIH leadership has kept me well-informed about their ongoing work and we will continue to work with NIH leadership to take appropriate next steps."
Rep. Estes sent an additional letter to Secretary Becerra on Feb. 2, 2022, demanding answers about NIH's involvement in gain-of-function research and EcoHealth's failure to meet progress report deadlines, saying, "The research in question was conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) between 2018 and 2019. Director Tabak indicated that EcoHealth failed to submit a progress report until August 2021. Given these timeframes, I cannot determine how NIH was able to review this progress report during the funding period as EcoHealth had yet to submit this progress report to NIH." On April 28, 2022, Rep. Estes raised the concern directly to HHS Secretary Becerra, asking about HHS policies around funding "dubious research within countries like China." Secretary Becerra responded, saying "NIH never supported any gain-of-function research, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China." Later, on July 19, 2022, Secretary Becerra replied to Rep. Estes' letter, "NIH assures me that neither NIH nor its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have ever approved any grant that would have supported research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans."
In January 2023, Rep. Estes introduced the Restoring Normalcy in America Act, a multi-objective bill that included a research component to discover the true origin of COVID-19.
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup said in a statement, "EcoHealth facilitated gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China, without proper oversight, willingly violated multiple requirements of its multimillion-dollar National Institutes of Health grant, and apparently made false statements to the NIH. These actions are wholly abhorrent, indefensible, and must be addressed with swift action. EcoHealth’s immediate funding suspension and future debarment is not only a victory for the U.S. taxpayer, but also for American national security and the safety of citizens worldwide."

Stay Connected

Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.