FLASHBACK: NIH Funded Wuhan Lab Engaged In Dangerous Research Previously Banned In US

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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The National Institutes of Health granted more than $3 million to non-profit Ecohealth Alliance, which funneled money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for study of bat coronaviruses over the course of six years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The NIH gave annual grants to Ecohealth from 2014 until the spring of 2020, when their relationship was terminated, NIH records show. The WIV was engaged in gain-of-function research during that time period, a dangerous and contentious scientific practice that involves making pathogens more deadly and more infectious for dual-use purposes. (RELATED: Why Aren’t We Talking More About China’s ‘Gain Of Function’ Coronavirus Research?)

“Dual-use” technologies are defined as those that can be used for both peaceful and military purposes. Examples include nuclear energy, missile technology, and biomedical engineering such as GoF research. Historically, GoF work has been used not only to aid in vaccine development, but to develop bioweapons technology. 

From Oct. 2014-Jan. 2018, GoF research funding was banned by the NIH due to concerns over the risks posed among the scientific community. “Simple mathematical analysis gives real reason for concern about the handling of these dangerous viruses,” read a 2012 report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The WIV contains the only BSL-4 level research facility in China, authorized to handle the most dangerous biomedical research in the world. The lab is located just minutes from the Wuhan wet market that likely saw the first superspreading event of the COVID-19 pandemic. (RELATED: Did Coronavirus Come From A Lab? Ten Key Takeaways From A Shocking New Report)

The Institute is also home to China’s famous “batwoman” scientist, Dr. Shi Zhengli. Shi is well-known for her work studying bat coronaviruses like COVID-19. (RELATED: Study Seems To Show Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine Only 50% Effective, Prompting Clarification From China)

The NIH has denied that funds it granted Ecohealth went specifically to GoF research, even though the WIV was working on that kind of research at the time they were receiving money. “It did not involve the enhancement of the pathogenicity or transmissibility of the viruses studied and was not subject to the Gain-of-Function Research Funding Pause or its successor,” chief of NIH’s media office Amanda Fine told the Washington Times.