Federal health officials suspended funding to U.S. research organization EcoHealth Alliance, saying the organization had failed to oversee experiments in a Chinese lab before the pandemic.

EcoHealth, a New York-based nonprofit investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Both organizations are now facing accusations that their experiments with bats could have contributed to the development and spread of Covid-19.

Department of Health and Human Services stated that EcoHealth had failed to adequately monitor and report on risky virus experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, violating the terms of its federal grants and biosafety requirements.

The Department has moved to suspend EcoHealth’s federal funding, and will potentially be barred, making the organization ineligible to receive new federal contracts, grants and other types of funding from the U.S.

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EcoHealth has been under Federal investigation since the onset of the pandemic, with officials repeatedly asking the organization to turn over required documents. In April 2020, former President Donald Trump publicly questioned the organization’s work in Wuhan, suspending their federal grant. However, funding was restored last year due to Republican objections.

The Federal government has already cut funding to the Wuhan Institute, saying that the lab had neglected to provide essential documents regarding its research.

Recent debates among Federal officials and scientists about the possibility that Covid-19 emerged from a spillover event or leak from a laboratory have resurfaced investigations into EcoHealth’s work.

While there is no evidence that the Wuhan Lab or any other research organization possessed SARS-CoV-2 before the pandemic, officials are suspicious of EcoHealth’s president Peter Daszak, who was among the most prominent voices in 2020, arguing that the pandemic emerged from a virus spread between animals and humans.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have applauded the decision, issuing a report saying that EcoHealth and Daszak had acted with “contempt for the American people.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chairman of the House panel investigating the Covid response, said, “EcoHealth’s immediate funding suspension and future debarment is not only a victory for the U.S. taxpayer, but also for American national security and the safety of citizens worldwide.”

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-California), the panel’s top Democrat, similarly said, “Every recipient of federal taxpayer funding has an obligation to meet the utmost standards of transparency and accountability to the American public.” Ruiz added that the decision to suspend EcoHealth’s funding should not be used as evidence to link them to the origins of the pandemic.

EcoHealth supporters have responded saying that the organization is being used as a scapegoat as there is no evidence linking its work to the pandemic.

In an email last year to The Washington Post, Daszak wrote, “We are confident that the bat coronavirus research conducted by EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology could not have started the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Daszak announced that the organization will appeal the federal decision to suspend their funding.

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