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Emails contradict Biden administration denials that EcoHealth Alliance received DARPA funding for virus research

Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Newly released documents appear to contradict denials by the the U.S. government that the Defense Department funded activities by EcoHealth Alliance, the controversial nonprofit group that requested a government grant for risky virus research in 2018.

Investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker published emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request Tuesday that show the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded researchers at the University of California at Davis who had partnered with EcoHealth Alliance on a pandemic preparedness program.

Last September, leaked documents revealed that EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak had submitted a proposal to DARPA for a grant to collect bat viruses in China and then conduct gain-of-function research experiments with "humanized" and "batified" mice. The agency ultimately rejected Dasak's proposal after reviewers determined it violated federal guidelines on gain-of-function research.

When contacted by TheBlaze at the time, DARPA would neither confirm nor deny that EcoHealth Alliance submitted the proposal.

"Information contained within bids is considered proprietary and can only be released by the bidder. That being said, DARPA has never funded directly, nor indirectly as a subcontractor, any activity or researcher associated with the EcoHealth Alliance or Wuhan Institute of Virology," a spokesman for the agency said.

However, the new emails reported by Thacker in his newsletter, the DisInformation Chronicle, contradict the agency's statement. They show that just a few months after Daszak submitted his proposal in 2018, UC Davis researchers were discussing a pandemic preparedness program and year-five budget figures for their partners including EcoHealth Alliance, Metabiota, and the Smithsonian Institution.

“So, in the EHA-specific budget workbook, you will see text boxes in some countries that include the additional justification provided by EHA,” wrote Elizabeth Leasure, the financial operations manager for UC Davis' One Health Institute.

Her email, dated Aug. 7, 2018, discussed budget figures for EcoHealth Alliance virus sampling in various countries, including China. Leasure also indicated that a DARPA award for the program would begin in October, and that subawards to EcoHealth and other UC Davis partners would be used to cover staffing and other costs.

“Some current staff/other costs will be moved to DARPA once the subaward is in place, so those freed up funds could be reallocated to other countries or testing, as needed," Leasure wrote.

In an Aug. 8, 2018 response, UC Davis researcher Jonna Mazet wrote that the main reason for the increase in EcoHealth Alliance's budget had to do with personnel costs, including that Daszak received a 24% increase in his personal compensation from the prior year.

Although the emails show that DARPA funding for UC Davis was planned to be sub-awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, a spokesman for DARPA repeated the agency's previous denial.

“Consistent with DARPA’s previous statement, the agency has never funded EcoHealth Alliance directly, nor indirectly as a subcontractor,” a DARPA spokesperson told the Disinformation Chronicle.

Thacker wrote that the agency's repeated denials "add to a growing body of evidence that the Biden Administration is not interested in reviewing activities by the EcoHealth Alliance."

In 2020, the NIH created a thunderstorm of disapproval when it shut down an EcoHealth Alliance grant; 77 Nobel Laureates criticized the Trump administration for pulling the coronavirus research. “We believe that this action sets a dangerous precedent by interfering in the conduct of science and jeopardizes public trust in the process of awarding federal funds for research," they wrote.

This October, 18 months after the grant was terminated, the NIH notified Congress that EcoHealth Alliance had failed to comply with the timely submission of a research progress report for the grant. Since the NIH terminated that grant in 2020, the agency has awarded EcoHealth Alliance $4.2 million in funding for 4 different projects.

Last year, the NIH’s Anthony Fauci misled Congress during testimony about his role funding research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology through an EHA subcontract. Finally, the Inspector General for Health and Human Services told the DisInformation Chronicle last month that they were not investigating EHA, despite receiving multiple criminal referrals about the nonprofit from both congressional committees and the NIH.

DARPA did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze.

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