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Press Release Published: May 1, 2024

Wenstrup Opens Hearing with EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak, Recommends Formal Debarment and Criminal Investigation

WASHINGTON — Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) opened today’s hearing titled “A Hearing with the President of EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Peter Daszak” by breaking down the Select Subcommittee’s just released report on EcoHealth Alliance’s history of malfeasance and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) inadequate oversight of American taxpayer funds. The report recommends the formal debarment of and a criminal investigation into EcoHealth and Dr. Daszak as well as immediate Congressional action to improve grant procedures at NIH and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Chairman Wenstrup explained that Dr. Daszak has displayed a disregard for the risks associated with gain-of-function research, stonewalled the Congressional oversight process, and willfully violated the federal grant process. Dr. Daszak’s effort to play semantics with the definition of “gain-of-function” research is nothing more than an attempt to rebuff scrutiny about his dangerous experiments and sidestep accountability to the American taxpayer. Chairman Wenstrup concluded his remarks with a firm assertion that EcoHealth’s actions are a threat to national security and Dr. Daszak should never again receive taxpayer dollars to fund his research.

Below are Select Subcommittee Chairman Wenstrup’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the debate regarding the risks and benefits of a type of high-risk research, specifically gain of function research.

Prior to the pandemic, the public was largely unaware of the existence of this area of research, let alone the fact that they were funding it.

I know I first heard of it during our COVID lockdown while researching how we might treat patients suffering from this unique and deadly virus.

In 2014 the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) awarded EcoHealth Alliance Inc. a grant entitled, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.”

This grant included the collecting of novel coronaviruses from bats and conducting research on those novel viruses using laboratory mice.

The laboratory work, where this research was actually occurring, was outsourced by EcoHealth to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Dr. Daszak, who is here before us, is the President of EcoHealth.

Today, the Select Subcommittee released a report regarding EcoHealth and the evidence surrounding its research activities.

This report highlights the Select Subcommittee’s concerns with EcoHealth as an organization and Dr. Daszak’s interactions with federal agencies and foreign entities, such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

We have found that EcoHealth was nearly two years late in submitting a routine progress report to NIH, that EcoHealth failed to report, as required, a potentially dangerous experiment conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, that EcoHealth used taxpayer dollars to facilitate risky gain-of-function research, and that Dr. Daszak omitted a material fact regarding his access to unanalyzed virus samples and sequences at the WIV in his successful effort to have his grant reinstated by NIH.

These are only a few of our findings, which are detailed in our interim report issued today, and will be further explored in the Select Subcommittee’s final report.

Dr. Daszak has been less-than-cooperative with the Select Subcommittee, he has been slow to produce requested documents, and has regularly played semantics with the definition of gain-of-function research, even in his previous testimony.

Dr. Daszak maintains that EcoHealth never conducted gain-of-function research by shifting definitions of this area of research put forth by regulatory agencies.

Dr. Daszak either cannot or will not distinguish between the common understanding of gain-of-function research and the more technical definitions provided under various and narrowly defined regulatory frameworks.

But the facts are clear – research can be gain of function without meeting these convoluted and often hard to understand frameworks that only regulate a very minute subset of research.

So minute, that HHS has only ever reviewed three proposals out of thousands it receives every year.

Using highly technical definitions in order to assert that a certain project really isn’t “gain-of-function” research, when most others would suggest – as well as confirmed in their testimony before the Select Subcommittee – that it absolutely is gain of function, is a disingenuous attempt of avoiding questions and accountability.

The fact is that, as most people understand it, EcoHealth was absolutely conducting gain-of-function research, specifically in Wuhan.

Dr. Daszak’s problematic behavior is not limited to his less-than-fulsome cooperation or the risky research that he has conducted.

Recently released documents display Dr. Daszak communicating with Dr. David Morens, who was Senior Advisor to then-NIAID Director, Dr. Fauci, through private channels to avoid FOIA.

Dr. Daszak and Dr. Morens shared information, ideas, and strategies about how to best proceed to re-obtain funding for this risky research after Dr. Michael Lauer had terminated Dr. Daszak’s grant.

Dr. Morens provided Dr. Daszak with internal NIH deliberations and discussions concerning the suspension of EcoHealth’s grant, along with assurances that Dr. Fauci and NIAID would seek to mitigate the damage done to EcoHealth.

On April 16, 2024, I announced a subpoena to Dr. Morens for documents in his email relating to the origins of COVID-19.

Yesterday, he produced 30,000 pages of emails.

This investigation does not end today. 

Dr. Daszak told Dr. Morens in these private communications that he still had 15,000 samples “in freezers in Wuhan” and had not yet analyzed more than “700” coronaviruses he had identified in those samples.

EcoHealth has lamented “the negative impact on…US national security” posed by their inability to sequence all the samples at WIV.

But EcoHealth’s actions themselves are a threat to national security.

Dr. Daszak has displayed a disregard for the risks associated with gain-of-function research, the Congressional oversight process, and the federal grant process.

Dr. Daszak has proven that he is not a responsible steward of the American people’s tax dollars.

We see no reason the American people should be paying for EcoHealth’s research, or any other work Dr. Daszak conducts.

And let me be clear, I support global health research. I support work that will make the world safer. That’s why we are investigating.

Our concern is that this research and research similar does the opposite – puts the world at risk of a pandemic.

I look forward to a robust and on-topic discussion. Thank you.