Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy is demanding answers from the acting director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) about payments to employees from foreign entities, including some connected to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Roy led a letter with 14 of his House GOP colleagues to acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak Wednesday about government watchdog Open The Books’ report saying agency employees took $325 million in payments from 31 private companies worldwide.
Citing Open The Books, the lawmakers wrote that some of the payments between 2008 and 2021 came from companies “affiliated” with the CCP.
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“These payments raise not only national security concerns but deepen concerns regarding the potential undue influence massive healthcare companies may have over public health agencies engaged in developing and regulating products and responding to public health threats — like COVID-19,” the Republicans wrote.
“Of particular concern, companies that were intimately involved with — and stood to financially gain from — the federal government’s COVID-19 response, such as Moderna, Pfizer, BioNTech US, and Johnson & Johnson, provided a number of payments to NIH scientists.
“Naturally, providing payments to NIH scientists, even if the product was unrelated to COVID-19, raises concerns about the role these companies play in NIH decision making.”
The lawmakers also highlighted that “the Open The Books report found that at least 59 payments originated from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, a CCP controlled subsidiary associated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” the lab from which “multiple federal agencies” believe COVID-19 leaked.
The Republicans wrote that “at the beginning of the pandemic, then-NIH Director Francis Collins and then-NIAID Director Anthony Fauci dismissed the so-called ‘lab leak theory.’ Director Collins went as far as calling it ‘outrageous.’”
“While the report does not indicate that Dr. Collins or Dr. Fauci received payments from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, the NIH’s close financial ties to the entity, and its early dismissal of the lab leak theory, cannot be ignored and warrant further examination,” the letter states.
“It should also be noted that Dr. Fauci, despite being the highest-paid employee in the federal government, hauled in at least 37 third-party payments from companies, while Dr. Collins received at least 21 third-party payments.
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“COVID-19 aside, the report raises general national security concerns regarding our public health apparatus’ financial ties to our geopolitical adversaries, including the CCP and companies based in Russia.”
The Republicans wrote that, according to the report, “at least 34 different Chinese companies made royalty payments to NIH scientists from 2008 to 2021 and NIH scientists received at least 20 royalty payments from a Russian-based ‘vaccine’ company that is widely believed to be a secret bioweapon lab.”
“The American people deserve to know that their public health officials follow the science and make decisions based purely on objective information, not personal financial motives,” the lawmakers wrote, noting that Tabak “testified that royalty payments carry the ‘appearance’ of a conflict of interest during a congressional hearing last year.”
The lawmakers peppered Tabak with questions, including asking the acting director if the agency will commit to releasing a yearly report on “third-party payments to NIH employees.”
Fox News Digital reached out to the NIH for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
An internal investigation found that NIH did not execute proper oversight of the nonprofit group EcoHealth Alliance, which was awarded nearly $8 million in federal research grants to study bat coronaviruses in China.
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The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general released a 64-page report Wednesday that states the NIH “did not effectively monitor or take timely action” to ensure that EcoHealth Alliance was complying with the terms of its grant awards and sub-awards.
EcoHealth, an environmental group that works to prevent the outbreak of emerging diseases, is under intense scrutiny from Republican lawmakers for its relationship to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, which was the recipient of $600,000 in federal tax dollars subawarded by EcoHealth to research coronaviruses in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and other GOP lawmakers have alleged that risky research conducted at the Wuhan lab on the taxpayers’ dime may be connected to the origins of the pandemic. Federal health officials have disputed this claim, showing that the viruses studied under the terms of EcoHealth’s grant “were so far distant from an evolutionary standpoint from SARS-CoV-2 that they could not have possibly been the source of SARS-CoV-2 or the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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Still, the inspector general’s report comes just as House Republicans are about to begin new inquiries into the origins of the virus, and it shows the NIH did not follow its established rules and procedures with regard to EcoHealth Alliance’s grants.
The investigation did not assess the scientific results of EcoHealth Alliance’s experiments or evaluate if those results posed a risk or qualified as gain-of-function research, an area of study in which viruses are manipulated to become more contagious, or even deadly, so that scientists can prepare vaccines and prevent the next pandemic. Critics say such research risks accidentally causing a pandemic, and NIH has guidelines meant to apply strict oversight to any federally-funded gain-of-function projects.
However, the inspector general’s report found NIH did not adequately follow its policies and procedures with respect to three grants to EcoHealth Alliance between 2014 and 2021, totaling about $8 million.
Fox News Digital’s Chris Pandolfo contributed reporting.