The Intercept published a report on Monday following the release of 900 pages of materials that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was forced to turnover following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the news organization.
The information pertains to the work of EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that used federal grant money to fund bat coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The president of EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, has come under intense criticism and scrutiny over his ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and over his rush to dismiss claims that SARS-CoV-2 could have leaked out of the lab as a conspiracy theory.
The report noted that one of the grants, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” had the goal of screening thousands of bats for coronaviruses. The Intercept reports:
The bat coronavirus grant provided the EcoHealth Alliance with a total of $3.1 million, including $599,000 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology used in part to identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to infect humans. Even before the pandemic, many scientists were concerned about the potential dangers associated with such experiments. The grant proposal acknowledges some of those dangers: “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled.”
Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right To Know, which has been investigating the origins of the pandemic, responded to the report by telling the publication: “This is a roadmap to the high-risk research that could have led to the current pandemic.”
The report also revealed a key detail about the research going on inside of Wuhan, including “the fact that key experimental work with humanized mice was conducted at a biosafety level 3 lab at Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment — and not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as was previously assumed.”
Vanity Fair reported in June about Chinese scientists using “engineered mice with humanized lungs” to test coronaviruses on:
As the [National Security Council] tracked these disparate clues, U.S. government virologists advising them flagged one study first submitted in April 2020. Eleven of its 23 coauthors worked for the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, the Chinese army’s medical research institute. Using the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, the researchers had engineered mice with humanized lungs, then studied their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. As the NSC officials worked backward from the date of publication to establish a timeline for the study, it became clear that the mice had been engineered sometime in the summer of 2019, before the pandemic even started. The NSC officials were left wondering: Had the Chinese military been running viruses through humanized mouse models, to see which might be infectious to humans?
Dr. Robert Redfield, a virologist who served as the U.S. CDC director from 2018-21, and Dr. Siegel, a clinical professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health, suggested in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Chinese researchers could have used the humanized mice to “to test their ability to infect human tissue.”
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