In August, the NIH terminated a sub-award to the Wuhan Institute of Virology that had been part of an earlier grant to EcoHealth Alliance, telling the House Oversight Committee that the organization had refused to turn over laboratory notebooks and other records as required. “NIH has requested on two occasions that EHA provide NIH the laboratory notebooks and original electronic files from the research conducted at WIV. To date, WIV has not provided these records,” the NIH wrote to the committee. “Today, NIH has informed EHA that since WIV is unable to fulfill its duties for the subaward under grant R01AI110964, the WIV subaward is terminated for failure to meet award terms and conditions requiring provision of records to NIH upon request.”
On August 19, the NIH wrote to EcoHealth to let it know that the sub-award had been terminated for “material non-compliance with terms and conditions of award.” The agency added that EcoHealth could potentially renegotiate the grant without the involvement of the Wuhan lab.
Within weeks of terminating the Wuhan lab funding, the NIH awarded the new grant. The aim of the new research is to identify areas of potential concern for future pandemic emergence in order to help public health authorities suppress an outbreak before it breaks containment. But the process of performing the research introduces the risk of sparking an outbreak that would not otherwise have occurred, a concern highlighted by The Intercept last year: “Virtually every part of the work of outbreak prediction can result in an accidental infection. Even with the best of intentions, scientists can serve as vectors for the viruses they hunt — and as a result, their work may put everyone else’s lives on the line along with their own.”