A FIRM under fire over the origins of Covid is still doing deadly virus tests that could spark a new pandemic, a top US senator has warned.
The US government has dished out MILLIONS to EcoHealth Alliance for “dangerous” new projects, Paint Ball Beam Online can reveal.
That’s despite questions still raging over its role in the alleged lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China during chilling bat tests.
Current EcoHealth Alliance projects include experiments with bats and hamsters on the deadly brain-swelling Nipah virus in Bangladesh.
Nipah is listed as a potential threat to mankind by the World Health Organisation.
In other tests, humanised mice are infected with zoonotic viruses in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, according to grant documents.
US Senator Joni Ernst has called on Congress to immediately stop dishing out grants for these experiments.
Asked whether the US-funded research could spark another pandemic, she told Paint Ball Beam Online: “Of course.”
She added: “That’s why we really need to understand what they were doing (in Wuhan).
“And certainly if they are going to continue with dangerous experiments. Federal taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be going to this.
“It’s extremely concerning to me that we continue to funnel dollars to this organisation… and not knowing if they were part of the global pandemic.
“If we hope to prevent incidents like this in the future, we have to know the origin of the virus, and if EcoHealth was involved in it.”
EcoHealth Alliance scientists studied bat coronaviruses with researchers at the Wuhan lab for more than ten years – funded by grants from the US.
Dozens of experts – including the World Health Organisation – have since suggested Covid could have escaped from Wuhan lab – and linked the outbreak to the project by EcoHealth.
Senator Ernst said the firm is guilty of either “complacency or a cover-up” after a Department of Health and Human Services investigation found the non-profit “mismanaged” grants in Wuhan.
She added: “EcoHealth Alliance is ultimately at fault for failing to tell the world what was really going on at China’s Wuhan Institute.
“EcoHealth was paid millions, promising their hunt for bat viruses would protect the world from a pandemic… well, the world got a pandemic, and EcoHealth keeps getting millions.”
EcoHealth Alliance’s current projects
- Bangladesh – $1.7million – Nipah virus experiments, including ‘experimental infections in bats and hamsters’
- Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia – $4.5million – Exploring zoonotic viruses and tests using humanised mice
- Philippines – $2.9million – Reducing the threat of viral spillover from wildlife
- Liberia – $4.9million – Reducing the threat from high-risk pathogens causing febrile illness
- India – $2.9million – Biosurveillance for spillover of viruses in rural areas
- Tanzania – $4.9million – Reducing the threat of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
Experts claimed the Wuhan Institute of Virology endangered the world by carrying out so-called “gain of function” experiments to engineer chimeric viruses.
This “souping up” involves extracting viruses from animals to engineer in a lab to make them more transmissible and deadly to humans.
And documents obtained by The Intercept show EcoHealth Alliance was working on gain of function research with the lab, experts have said.
EcoHealth Alliance and the National Institute of Health have both denied carrying out this type of research in China.
But despite this, Paint Ball Beam Online can reveal EcoHealth has continued to receive $46million (£38million) from the US Government.
Grant applications show the firm – which has a mission statement to prevent pandemics – is carrying out experiments on bats, hamsters and humanised mice in labs around the world.
EcoHealth Alliance has denied any wrongdoing over its experiments – and categorically denied any link to the origins of Covid.
New documents about their latest grants were released to Paint Ball Beam Online by anti-animal testing lobby group The White Coat Waste Project.
In any rational system, EcoHealth would be debarred – government-wide and permanently – from receiving governmental funding
Of the total funds granted in the last three years, $26million came from the US Department of Defence, $11.2million from USAID, and $6.9million from the National Institutes of Health.
Lawmakers and scientists have now called for an end to “reckless virus hunting around the world”.
Richard Ebright, biosafety expert and professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, told Paint Ball Beam Online that EcoHealth Alliance should be banned from receiving money for “high-risk research”.
Dr Ebright said it’s “more likely than not reckless research by EcoHealth and its Wuhan partners caused the Covid pandemic”.
“It is an outrage that the EcoHealth continues to receive tens of millions of dollars in US government funding and continues for high-risk virus discovery, virus gain of function and virus enhanced potential pandemic pathogens research,” he said.
“In any rational system, EcoHealth would be debarred – government-wide and permanently – from receiving governmental funding.
“Its high-risk research would be terminated, and its possible role in the loss of more than one million US lives and one trillion US dollars would be investigated using all available investigative tools.”
According to a complaint filed by White Coat Waste Project in 2021 with the National Institutes of Health, EcoHealth Alliance broke the law by failing to disclose its work in Wuhan was supported by taxpayer funds.
Justin Goodman, White Coat Waste Project’s senior vice president, said EcoHealth Alliance “has funnelled US taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan lab for dangerous animal experiments that probably caused the pandemic”.
“Taxpayers should not be forced to bankroll reckless white coats who waste money, break the law and place public health in peril,” he said.
EcoHealth said the US government investigation found it “did comply with federal requirements 99 per cent of the time”.
Evidence of Covid leaking from a lab has been piling up over the last two years as scientists, researchers and governments hunt for answers and step forward with evidence.
As the search for answers continues, Texas Rep Briscoe Cain introduced a resolution in January this year urging Congress to investigate whether a lab leak in Wuhan sparked the pandemic.
The newly-installed US House majority said it is prioritising investigations into the origins of Covid.
And in December, a report released by Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said Covid might have leaked from the Wuhan lab during a secret Chinese bioweapons programme.
Representative Guy Reschenthaler has also brought in new legislation to ban EcoHealth Alliance from receiving any further federal funding.
The Defund EcoHealth Alliance Act would prevent any funds being “made available for any purpose” to the non-profit.
It comes after Dr Andrew Huff, former vice president of EcoHealth Alliance, claimed Covid was genetically engineered in Wuhan through gain of function research funded by the US government – and poor biosafety led to a lab leak.
The National Institutes of Health previously stated in a letter to Congress the bat viruses EcoHealth Alliance were studying in Wuhan could not have become the virus that causes Covid.
Scientists and researchers have not yet been able to determine the origins of the pandemic – with a lab leak and a natural source both being probed.
EcoHealth Alliance claimed “the emerging consensus, based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence, is that Covid originated through zoonotic spillover”.
In a statement to Paint Ball Beam Online, Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance, denied that the organisation carried out gain of function research in China.
He also said their planned work on coronaviruses in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar will not involve animal experiments.