U.S. Suspends Funding for Group at Center of Covid Origins Fight

The Biden administration, under acute pressure from House lawmakers, moved on Wednesday to ban funding for a prominent virus-hunting nonprofit group whose work with Chinese scientists had put it at the heart of theories that Covid leaked from a lab.

The decision, announced in a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services, came on the heels of a scorching congressional hearing this month at which lawmakers barraged the group’s president with suggestions that he had misrepresented work with virologists in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began. Republicans went further, demanding that Peter Daszak, the president of the nonprofit, EcoHealth Alliance, be criminally investigated.

For EcoHealth, which relied on federal funding to study the threat of wild animal viruses, the loss of funding is another twist in a saga that has long dominated discussions of how the pandemic began.

In April 2020, under orders from the Trump administration, the National Institutes of Health terminated a grant to EcoHealth amid President Donald J. Trump’s feud with China over the origin of the coronavirus. Three years later, an internal federal watchdog agency determined that the N.I.H. had failed to give a proper cause for ending the grant, which supplied an average of roughly $625,000 per year. The N.I.H. restarted a pared-back version of the award.

Now, with Republicans stepping up their campaign against EcoHealth, and Democrats joining in the anger, the Biden administration has cut off funding for EcoHealth again.

Health officials said they were suspending three active N.I.H. grants to EcoHealth that totaled $2.6 million for last year. And they proposed barring the group from receiving future federal research funding. Such bans, they said, usually last no more than three years, but could be longer or shorter.

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