An oversight board created to scrutinize research that would enhance highly dangerous pathogens did not review a National Institutes of Health grant that funded a lab in Wuhan, China, to genetically modify bat-based coronaviruses.
Experts say the NIH grant describes scientists conducting gain-of-function research, a risky area of study that, in this case, made SARS-like viruses even more contagious. Federal funding for gain-of-function research was temporarily suspended in 2014 due to widespread scientific concerns it risked leaking supercharged viruses into the human population.
Dozens of Republican members of Congress wrote a letter to National Institutes of Health Acting Inspector General Christi Grimm on Tuesday demanding a “prompt and thorough investigation” into the NIH’s relationship with a Chinese lab that studied coronaviruses.
The 28 lawmakers demanded Grimm investigate the total amount of funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has received from the NIH, as well as whether any NIH officials communicated with the lab or its U.S. sponsor at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to quell debate surrounding the theory that the virus could have accidentally escaped from the lab.
Song Guo Zheng, a former researcher at Ohio State University and Penn State University, pleaded guilty to using millions in federal grants to increase medical expertise for China.
Zheng — a professor who led an autoimmune research team for both universities — received $4.1 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health for research projects. Instead of using the funds to benefit the United States, he developed China’s expertise in immunology, according to the Department of Justice.
Biotech company Moderna announced Monday that its new COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be 94.5 % effective.
The company said it intends to submit for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks and expects the EUA to be based on the final analysis of 151 cases and a median follow-up of more than two months.