Funding for Coronavirus Research Study Withdrawn by NIH
On April 24, 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it was withdrawing funding for a multi-year research project in China. The project, which has been funded by the NIH since 2015, was led by an environmental non-profit, known as EcoHealth Alliance. Working in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, EcoHealth Alliance sent scientists to China to test bats for new coronaviruses that could infect human populations, with the goal of developing vaccines and treatments.
The NIH's decision to withdraw funding for the project followed statements, by President Trump, suggesting that an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology may have led to the release of COVID-19. While scientists have said that is extremely unlikely, the Trump Administration is investigating the claim. On April 17, 2002, President Trump announced that he had directed officials to investigate whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology was receiving any U.S. funding and, if so, to immediate terminate it. Funding for the EcoHealth Alliance project was withdrawn a week later.
The withdrawal of funding for the EcoHealth Alliance research program prompted significant criticism, including from 77 U.S. Nobel Laureates and 31 scientific societies, who wrote to NIH leadership requesting review of the decision. NIH initially agreed to restore funding to the program under several restrictive conditions which EcoHealth Alliance called "impossible and irrelevant" and said would "effectively block us from continuing this critical work." Upon further consideration, NIH awarded a $7.5 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance in August of 2020.