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COVID origins: HHS suspends EcoHealth Alliance grants after finding taxpayer funds used in risky research

The Department of Health and Human Services implemented an immediate, government-wide suspension on all funds allocated to EcoHealth Alliance – a firm that used taxpayer funds to conduct gain of function research at the Wuhan lab before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

HHS made the decision, citing evidence included in the House COVID Select Subcommittee’s staff-level report on the nonprofit.

According to HHS, EcoHealth willfully violated the terms of a multimillion-dollar National Institute of Health grant.

A spokesperson for EcoHealth Alliance told Fox News Digital that it is ‘disappointed by HHS’ decision today and we will be contesting the proposed debarment.’

‘We disagree strongly with the decision and will present evidence to refute each of these allegations and to show that NIH’s continued support of EcoHealth Alliance is in the public interest,’ the spokesperson told Fox News Digital.

The House COVID subcommittee, reacting Wednesday, said those are ‘not the actions of an organization or an individual that should continue to receive taxpayer funds.’

‘EcoHealth Alliance and [EcoHealth President] Dr. Peter Daszak should never again receive a single penny from the U.S. taxpayer,’ committee Chairman Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, said in a statement Wednesday. ‘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.’

Wenstrup added that those 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,’ Wenstrup said.

Wenstrup’s committee, with support of Democratic lawmakers on the panel, had Daszak testify publicly earlier this month.

Fox News Digital previously reported that EcoHealth Alliance received millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). U.S. taxpayer funds flowed to Chinese entities conducting coronavirus research through EcoHealth Alliance.

That money – at least $600,000 – was redirected to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and went toward research to assess the transmission of bat coronaviruses to humans. The research included conducting RNA extractions and DNA sequencing on bat samples as well as biological experiments on pathogen spillover from bats to humans.

EcoHealth Alliance also received more than $200,000 that was redirected to Wuhan University and went toward disease surveillance research activities, including collection of biological samples from people in China with high levels of exposure to bats for Wuhan Institute of Virology to conduct further screening.

Former U.S. government officials, like former NIH Director Francis Collins, said the U.S. taxpayer money was not approved to conduct gain-of-function research, which is research that involves modifying a virus to make it more infectious among humans.

The U.S. Energy Department and the FBI have determined that COVID-19 likely emerged from a lab leak in China.

Meanwhile, Wenstrup says his committee’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and EcoHealth ‘is far from over.’

‘Dr. Daszak and his team are still required to produce all outstanding documents and answer the Select Subcommittee’s questions, specifically related to Dr. Daszak’s potential dishonesty under oath,’ he said. ‘We will hold EcoHealth accountable for any waste, fraud, and abuse and are committed to uncovering any illegal activity, including lying to Congress, NIH, or the Inspector General.’

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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