NIH Did Not Properly Track a Group Studying Coronaviruses, Report Finds
In an interview last January with The New York Times, Dr. Fauci said the grant had been canceled because Mr. Trump insisted on it. “The grant was pulled because Donald Trump said, ‘Pull that grant,’ because he was on a storm against China,” Dr. Fauci said. “There was no reason to cancel it.”
The agency later re-established the grant with extensive conditions.
EcoHealth, too, faced distributed criticism in the inspector general’s report, which said that EcoHealth had not ensured that researchers to whom it gave NIH grant money, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, complied with federal requirements. It said that EcoHealth had claimed roughly $90,000 in improper costs over seven years, including salaries above an NIH limit, bonuses and travel and tuition costs.
EcoHealth said in a statement that those costs had amounted to roughly 1 percent of the NIH grants to the group. It said that it had found separately that the NIH had underpaid the group by roughly $126,000.
The inspector general said that the NIH had told inspectors that it generally agreed with its recommendations, which included assessing its employees’ compliance with oversight guidance and stronger monitoring of EcoHealth grants. The NIH said on Wednesday that it had completed nearly all of the recommended actions.
The NIH has previously taken steps against EcoHealth, including criticizing the group in late 2021 for its late progress report. In August, the agency said it was terminating part of a grant to EcoHealth related to its collaborations with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The report comes just as Republicans, newly in charge of the House of Representatives, are preparing to summon Dr. Fauci to testify on the origins of the pandemic.
Some top Republicans, who theorize that the pandemic originated from a lab, have repeatedly accused Dr. Fauci of covering up evidence that could prove his theory. Professor Gostin said the report gives no indication of that.
“While the report validates some of the legitimate concerns about NIH,” he said, “I don’t think it validates the highly partisan conspiracy theories, and I don’t think it shows that Tony Fauci or any other NIH officials were intentionally hiding anything or turned the other way.