NIH emails show the bureau was investigating possible gain-of-function research at the lab and possible failures to comply with reporting rules. The Chinese government lab has been suspected as the source of COVID-19.
The new information, uncovered by the conservative group Judicial Watch, shows that a senior investigations officer in the NIH Division of Program Integrity named Ashley Sanders sent an email to FBI Newark Field Office agent David Miller in May 2020 with the subject line “Grant Questions – FBI Inquiry – 1-R01AI110964-01 – 2-R01AI110964-06.” The “R01AI110964” tag is the identifier for the NIH and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases award to EcoHealth Alliance titled “Understanding Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” A subaward from that was provided to the Wuhan lab.
The email to the FBI was also sent to NIH officials, including Erik Stemmy, and stated that “in preparation for our call on Tuesday, Erik (cc’d) has provided responses to your initial questions below (also attached).” The more than four pages of responses are completely redacted aside from a reference to the U.S. grant to EcoHealth.
The Washington Examiner reached out to the FBI and NIH about the apparent investigation. The FBI declined to comment. The NIH did not respond.
The Washington Examiner has previously reported that EcoHealth leader Peter Daszak was a longtime collaborator with the Wuhan lab who steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in NIH funding to the Chinese lab.
NIH Deputy Director Michael Lauer revealed last year and again this year that the NIH had violated the terms of its grant awards, which Republicans claim shows EcoHealth was engaging in risky gain-of-function research in China.
The NIH was run then by its now former head, Dr. Francis Collins, while Dr. Anthony Fauci still leads NIAID.
EcoHealth sent a letter to Lauer in April 2021 stating that “immediately following NIH’s letter on 4/19/2020 that the WIV was being ‘investigated’, we suspended all plans for contractual work with WIV.” The group argued: “This termination of a funded relationship with the institute makes it extraordinarily difficult and more likely impossible to provide the information requested about an autonomous foreign organization.”
Daszak dismissed the lab leak hypothesis in March 2021 when he admitted he took Wuhan lab workers at their word.
Meeting minutes from discussions between lab scientists in Wuhan and the WHO-China COVID-19 origins joint study team reveal that lab leak concerns were referred to as “myths” and “conspiracy theories.”
An advisory group assembled by the World Health Organization said in June that the lab leak hypothesis needed further study.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment in the summer of 2021 stating that one U.S. intelligence agency assessed with “moderate confidence” that COVID-19 most likely emerged from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan, while four U.S. spy agencies and the National Intelligence Council believe with “low confidence” COVID-19 most likely has a natural origin.
The New York Times identified the FBI as the agency that “backs the lab leak theory” in October.