- The Washington Times
Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A group of Republican senators introduced legislation on Tuesday to create an inspector general at the National Institutes of Health to probe how the agency is doling out taxpayer money, which became an issue because of the money trail leading to China’s Wuhan lab. 

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennesse, say greater accountability is needed at NIH after revelations it provided grants to the EcoHealth Alliance, which was studying coronavirus transmission with the Wuhan Institute of Virology before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“As the nation’s leading medical research agency, the NIH oversees thousands of researchers and institutes, and they managed a $45.1 billion budget last year,” said Mrs. Blackburn. “However, they have been far from transparent, covering up grants for gain-of-function research in Wuhan and refusing to release critical data regarding allegations of millions in royalty fees paid to in-house scientists.” 

A recent audit of the NIH by the Department of Health and Human Services found significant concerns. Chiefly, NIH continued providing grants to EcoHealth between 2019 and 2021 even as the group failed to provide adequate information regarding its work in Wuhan. 

NIH continues to act as an autonomous government agency and forego policies that strictly regulate the grant award process,” said Senator Roger Marshal, Kansas Republican. “The agency’s lack of grant oversight and management jeopardizes the integrity of federally-funded research and leaves Americans vulnerable to dangerous pathogen outbreaks from lab accidents.”

The NIH has an annual budget totaling more than $45 billion. Most of the money is disbursed in the form of grants to independent research institutions and nongovernmental organizations, including the EcoHealth Alliance. 

In 2020, NIH donated more than 80% of its budget via grants to more than 2,500 research institutions. 

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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