U.S. funding for China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology has been suspended by the Biden Administration after a Department of Health and Human Services review determined that the research facility, which is at the center of a theory over the origins of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, is “not compliant with federal regulations and is not presently responsible.”
According to an HHS memo, the agency has also proposed barring the Wuhan Institute from doing any business with the U.S. government moving forward, reports CNN.
An HHS spokesperson said the determination was made after the Wuhan facility stonewalled the National Institutes of Health on its requests for documentation on research “related to concerns that WIV violated NIH’s biosafety protocols.”
The memo was dated Monday and first reported by Bloomberg.
The spokesperson said the Wuhan lab hasn’t gotten any NIH funding since 2020.
In the memo, an HHS deputy assistant secretary for acquisition, whose name was redacted, concluded that the Wuhan Institute’s “disregard of the NIH’s requests” along with a conclusion from the NIH likely violated biosafety protocols is “currently violating and will continue to violate” those rules.
The U.S. intelligence community hasn’t concluded where COVID-19 originated, but one theory holds that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab in late 2019, starting the pandemic that has led to almost 7 million recorded deaths worldwide.
Last month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report stating that it could not be determined if researchers who became ill at the Wuhan lab in the fall of 2019 had the virus, but still revealed security and safety issues at the lab.
Other experts, however, say the virus was spread to humans in a market near the lab after having surfaced from natural sources.
The NIH notified EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that partly funneled a 2014 NIH grant to the Wuhan facility, in April 2020 that it was reviewing the lab’s suspected links to the pandemic, and that July told the company that it had gotten reports of “biosafety concern” at the Chinese facility.
Wuhan researchers had been studying bat coronaviruses but denied their work was connected to the viral outbreak, and said instead that their contributions led to understanding the virus.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has called for more investigations in China, including a laboratory audit.
Beijing has pointed to other possible sources of the virus and has accused the United States of “politicizing” the pandemic, while demanding the United States audit its own laboratories.
White Coat Waste Project, an organization that has exposed the NIH and former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci concerning funding for experiments at the Wuhan animal lab, on Wednesday hailed the Biden Administration’s announcement.
“We’re thrilled that following our campaign and historic investigations first exposing Fauci’s funding for dangerous gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan animal lab and their direct link to COVID’s likely Patient Zero, the Biden administration has finally suspended all taxpayer funding to the infamous animal testing lab that likely caused COVID and proposed blacklisting it forever,” Justin Goodman, a senior vice president for the organization said in a statement. “This long overdue decision is a decisive victory in the war on waste.”
He noted that since April 2020, the organization has been “leading successful efforts with Congress to ensure the white coats at Wuhan haven’t received any more taxpayer funding, including getting it disqualified from NIH funding earlier this year.”
“We first called on the Biden White House to permanently cut the Wuhan animal lab’s funding in February 2021, and last year shockingly exposed how Biden’s NIH was lobbying against our efforts with lawmakers to defund the Wuhan lab,” said Goodman. “We’re glad they’ve come around.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund a foreign lab run by an adversarial nation that wasted money, tortured animals, and engineered superviruses that probably caused a pandemic.”