Press Release
March 24, 2023

WASHINGTON — Empower Oversight filed a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG – pdf) calling for documents that may provide background on the agency’s failure to enforce proper procedures to review the COVID-19 research conducted by EcoHealth Alliance that was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

In October 2014, HHS-OIG reported that the U.S. government instituted a broad funding pause on gain-of-function research. Later on, in 2017, the White House issued strict guidelines that companies must follow to deal with enhanced pathogens. Despite the inherent risks behind EcoHealth Alliance’s research conducted in conjunction with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), along with several peer reviews that raised concerns about the specific research being conducted, the NIAID approved the grant’s application.

In its Second Year Report, NIAID determined that the funded research could be qualified as gain-of-function, yet the research was allowed to continue. Consistently throughout the agency’s oversight of EcoHealth Alliance’s grant, policies and procedures failed to forewarn the significance of the generation of one or more enhanced viruses, which eventually led to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To shed more light on the failure to adequately monitor the EcoHealth Alliance grant, Empower Oversight requested all internal communications within the HHS-OIG, NIH, and NIAID related to reviews of the grant. Additionally, Empower Oversight is seeking the names of members of the NIAID’s Dual Use Research Concern and Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight Committees, both of which are panels that closely examined the grant and what quantified an enhanced pathogen.

“The bureaucratic processes behind the approval and maintenance of the grant from HHS to EcoHealth Alliance could not be more opaque. Processes and policies were in place to prevent out-of-control gain-of-function research from occurring, yet somehow, EcoHealth Alliance and the WIV were allowed to continue their research. Our government must provide answers as to what they knew and when they knew it so any future potentially manmade pandemics may be prevented,” said Tristan Leavitt, President of Empower Oversight.

Last month, Empower Oversight filed FOIA requests with HHS-OIG and the NIH, requesting communications regarding the EcoHealth Alliance grant and any communications between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance in the middle of 2019, around when an enhanced growth notification should have been made to the federal government from EcoHealth Alliance.

If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.