DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Public Health Service
National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland 20892
October 20, 2021
The Honorable James Comer Ranking Member, Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Comer:
Thank you for your continued interest in the work of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I am writing today to provide additional information and documents regarding NIH’s grant to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc.
It is important to state at the outset that published genomic data demonstrate that the bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. and subaward to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) are not and could not have become SARS-CoV-2. Both the progress report and the analysis attached here again confirm that conclusion, as the sequences of the viruses are genetically very distant.
The fifth and final progress report for Grant RO1AI1 10964, awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. is attached with redactions only for personally identifiable information. This progress report was submitted to NIH in August 2021 in response to NIH’s compliance enforcement efforts. It includes data from a research project conducted during the 2018-19 grant period using bat coronavirus genome sequences already existing in nature.
The limited experiment described in the final progress report provided by EcoHealth Alliance was testing if spike proteins from naturally occurring bat coronaviruses circulating in China were capable of binding to the human ACE2 receptor in a mouse model. All other aspects of the mice, including the immune system, remained unchanged. In this limited experiment, laboratory mice infected with the SHC014 WIV1 bat coronavirus became sicker than those infected with the WIV1 bat coronavirus. As sometimes occurs in science, this was an unexpected result of the research, as opposed to something that the researchers set out to do. Regardless, the viruses being studied under this grant were genetically very distant from SARS-CoV-2.
The research plan was reviewed by NIH in advance of funding, and NIH determined that it did not to fit the definition of research involving enhanced pathogens of pandemic potential (ePPP) because these bat coronaviruses had not been shown to infect humans. As such, the research was not subject to departmental review under the HHS P3CO Framework. However, out of an abundance of caution and as an additional layer of oversight, language was included in the terms and conditions of the grant award to EcoHealth that outlined criteria for a secondary review, such as a requirement that the grantee report immediately a one log increase in growth. These