COVID origins: EcoHealth Alliance president to testify publicly before Congress next month


EXCLUSIVE: EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak will testify publicly before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic next month, Fox News Digital has learned. 

Daszak will testify before the COVID subcommittee on May 1, chaired by Rep. Brad Wenstrup. 

US TAXPAYER FUNDS FLOWED TO CHINESE ENTITIES THAT CONDUCTED CORONAVIRUS RESEARCH BEFORE COVID PANDEMIC: GAO

Daszak testified behind closed doors in November, but House Republicans said his testimony contained many “discrepancies,” according to a letter from Wenstrup and other committee chairs sent to Daszak. The letter, obtained by Fox News Digital, also contained a list of documents and records Daszak must produce to the committees prior to his public hearing next month. 

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer; House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rogers; House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith; and House Subcommittee on Health Chairman Brett Guthrie will also be invited to the May 1 hearing to ask questions of Daszak. 

Fox News Digital previously reported that EcoHealth Alliance received millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). U.S. taxpayer funds flowed to Chinese entities conducting coronavirus research through EcoHealth Alliance. 

PETER-DASZAK---COVID-INVESTIGATION---WUHAN-CHINA

Peter Daszak, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), uses his mobile phone at a hotel in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 3, 2021. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Those funds — at least $600,000 — were redirected to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and went towards research to assess the transmission of bat coronaviruses to humans. The research included conducting RNA extractions and DNA sequencing on bat samples, and conducting biological experiments on pathogen spillover from bats to humans. 

EcoHealth Alliance also received over $200,000 in funds that were redirected to Wuhan University and went towards disease surveillance research activities, including collection of biological samples from individuals in China with high levels of exposure to bats for Wuhan Institute of Virology to conduct further screening. 

Former U.S. government officials, like former director of NIH Francis Collins, said that the U.S. taxpayer funds were not approved to conduct gain of function research, which is research that involves modifying a virus to make it more infectious among humans. 

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“Dr. Daszak’s closed door testimony raised serious concerns about EcoHealth Alliance’s relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” COVID Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup told Fox News Digital. “Even after the Select Subcommittee reminded Dr. Daszak that he could be subject to criminal prosecution if he lied to the Committees, Dr. Daszak made numerous claims that seemed to be inconsistent with outside evidence and previous revelations.” 

Wenstrup leaves House Republican meeting

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, has serious concerns EcoHealth Alliance’s relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“We are looking forward to an honest forum where the American people can hear directly from the President of EcoHealth Alliance and finally receive the answers about the origins of COVID-19 that they deserve,” Wenstrup said. 

One discrepancy in his testimony, Wenstrup said, was regarding gain-of-function research at a University of North Carolina lab. 

Daszak, during his closed-door interview, was asked about the company’s DEFUSE research proposal EcoHealth Alliance, with the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), submitted to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). 

When asked about the location of planned experiments involving the reverse engineering and characterization of coronavirus spike proteins, Daszak said he understood that the gain of function work would be conducted at UNC. 

But Wenstrup and the committee found a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) document which calls into question whether Daszak’s testimony omitted a material fact and was misleading. 

According to the document, Daszak had written to his collaborators at UNC and the Wuhan Institute of Virology saying that he did “not propose that all of this work will necessarily be conducted” at UNC, but wrote that he did “want to stress the US side of this proposal so that DARPA are comfortable with our team.” 

The façade of the Wuhan Institute of Virology

Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan as members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus make a visit to the institute in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on February 3, 2021.  (Hector Retamal/ AFP)

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“Once we get the funds, we can allocate who does what exact work, and I believe that a lot of these assays can be done in Wuhan as well,” Daszak wrote, according to the committee. 

Wenstrup said that comment “appears to be materially inconsistent with your testimony assuring the committees that the proposed work was planned to be done exclusively at UNC.” 

Next, the committee is raising questions about Daszak’s testimony regarding biosafety levels used by the Wuhan Institute of Virology when conducting research funded by the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). 

The committee said EcoHealth Alliance intended to follow the weaker biosafety measures set by the Chinese government instead of the U.S. biosafety standards that should have regulated the research EcoHealth conducted with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. 

“The Committees are alarmed at the divergence between your statements and your comments in the DEFUSE draft. These revelations undermine your credibility as well as every factual assertion you made during your transcribed interview,” the letter to Daszak states. “The Committees have a right and an obligation to protect the integrity of their investigations, including the accuracy of testimony during a transcribed interview. We invite you to correct the record.” 

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Ahead of his public testimony, Wenstrup is demanding Daszak turn over phone records and calendars between November 2019 and January 13, 2021 — with a focus on documents showing any meetings or phone calls between Daszak and the federal government or any entity in China. 

Wuhan Institute of Virology campus aerial view

This aerial view shows the P4 laboratory, center, on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Opened in 2018, the P4 lab conducts research on the world’s most dangerous diseases, according to Getty Images. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Wenstrup is also demanding Daszak provide a list of EcoHealth employees who visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology since January 2018, and documents and communications between EcoHelath and federal government agencies between January 2014 through the present. 

Those requested documents would be related to the reinstatement and renewal of the grant entitled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronvirus Emergence,” documents regarding the suspension of Wuhan Institute of Virology, and more. 

Wenstrup is also calling for documents and communications between EcoHealth Alliance and the FBI and the Intelligence Community, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, between January 2014 and the present. 

PETER-DASZAK---COVID-PROBE---WUHAN-CHINA

Peter Daszak, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), waves as he leaves a hotel in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 10, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song (REUTERS/Aly Song)

By April 18, the committee expects Daszak to turn over records of communications with the Wuhan Institute of Virology regarding the origins of COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2; records of communications regarding EcoHealth’s efforts to obtain WIV’s lab notebooks pursuant to NIH oversight and compliance; records of biosafety and microbiological and biomedical lab standards; and more. 

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“EcoHealth Alliance used U.S. taxpayer dollars to conduct risky research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab. Americans demand to know whether their taxpayer dollars funneled to the Wuhan lab caused the COVID-19 pandemic and demand accountability for this abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Comer told Fox News Digital. “Peter Daszak may have provided false information to Congress about EcoHealth’s risky research and must correct the record. We look forward to his public testimony in May so that we can continue to provide answers to the American people about the pandemic and enact reforms to prevent future pandemics.” 

And Chairman Griffith told Fox News Digital that it “appears that Dr. Daszak wasn’t telling the full story to us.” 

“I would urge him to be more forthcoming about precisely where and when his organization was planning to conduct research, since it is a federal crime to lie to Congress,” Griffith warned. 

The U.S. Energy Department and the FBI have determined that COVID-19 likely emerged from a lab leak in China. 



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