Family members of four people who died from COVID-19 are suing the New York-based non-profit EcoHealth Alliance and its president, Peter Daszak, for funding and collaborating with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China. Since 2020, there have been allegations that the Chinese biohazard research facility is responsible for a lab leak that released a mutated SARS-CoV-2 virus, which caused the global COVID-19 pandemic. The families of Mary Connor, Emma D. Holley, Larry Carr, and Raul Osuna allege that EcoHealth funded, researched and created the genetically engineered virus in the Chinese laboratory and either intentionally or accidently released it.1 2
Making a Deadly Virus More Deadly
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), formerly led by Francis Collins, MD and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), which was led Anthony Fauci, MD until he retired in December 2022, reportedly provided millions of dollars to EcoHealth. In turn, EcoHealth funneled the U.S. taxpayer funds from NIH to the Wuhan biohazard lab.3 4 5 Researchers performing gain of function research argue that it is necessary because scientists need to increase knowledge about how viruses, especially animal viruses, become more deadly in order to prepare for the eventuality that a virus naturally mutates and infect humans one day.6
A paper published in Advanced Applied Microbiology in July 2022 explained gain-of-function research as follows:
Gain-of-Function research on viruses is enhancing transmissibility, virus replication, virulence, host range, immune evasion or drug and vaccine resistance to get insights into the viral mechanisms, to create and analyze animal models, to accelerate drug and vaccine development and to improve pandemic preparedness.7
The SARS-CoV-2 virus first appeared in the city of Wuhan in 2019, leading U.S. intelligence agencies to eventually conclude that the virus escaped from the WIV.8 However, originally, the story coming out of China in early 2020, a story endorsed by WHO and U.S. health officials, placed blame on an unsanitary wet food market close to the Chinese biohazard lab, alleging that the mutated coronavirus came from a bat or other animal sold at the market that infected a human.9 In fact, the adamant denials by the World Health Organization (WHO) and US and other governments that SARS-CoV-2 was a manmade bioengineered virus that escaped from the WIV were used by social media platforms to censor individuals and organizations who questioned that official narrative.10
Then, in July 2023, U.S. government officials admitted that the first three people in the world to be infected with COVID-19 were workers at WIV with one of the lead researchers, Ben Hu, called patient zero for the novel coronavirus. Jamie Metzel, a former member of the WHO’s advisory committee on human genome editing and now Senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, explained that, as patient zero, Ben Hu was the “smoking gun” behind the Chinese lab leak theory.11
NIH Did Not Properly Monitor EcoHealth for Policy Violations
An investigation by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that the NIH did not properly monitor the funding it gave to EcoHealth with regard to the work at WIV and that both the NIH and EcoHealth failed “… to understand the nature of the research conducted, identify potential problem areas, and take corrective action”12
The investigation reported that EcoHealth…
[d]id not ensure that sub-awards were compliant with federal requirements, did not ensure compliance with sub-recipient monitoring and reporting requirements, and did not comply with certain public disclosure requirements associated with reporting sub-award funding. … These deficiencies occurred because NIH and EcoHealth did not follow established policies and procedures.13
Plaintiffs Allege EcoHealth Knew Research Posed a Danger to the Public
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that Daszak understood the dangers of the research being conducted at WIV and knew the virus was “capable of causing a worldwide pandemic in the human population.” They allege that the deadly bioengineered virus did escape the lab and caused a worldwide pandemic that ultimately infected, seriously injured and killed the plaintiff’s family members.14
Plaintiffs further allege that EcoHealth breached their duty to ensure that the dangerous research it was funding was conducted in a responsible manner that would not create an unreasonable risk of harm to the public.15
The complaint reads:
The defendants knew or should have known that the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of others engaging in the coronavirus research funded by the defendants, including that of Dr. Shi Zheng-Li and other scientists at the WIV laboratories who intended to genetically modify coronaviruses to enhance their virulence, transmissibility and lethality for human beings, created an unreasonable risk of harm to others.16
The defendants are accused of ignoring multiple warnings about safety breaches at WIV, not conducting adequate risk assessments, not monitoring scientists working in the lab and not administering timely and accurate reports to the U.S. government. The NIH admitted that despite the almost eight-million-dollar grant it received from the government, EcoHealth failed to comply with numerous aspects of their funding agreement.17
EcoHealth President Accused of Attempting to Discredit the Lab Leak Theory
There is reason to believe that Daszak may have played a role in the early dismissal of the lab leak theory by the media and government. Until June 2021, Daszak was part of the United Nations-backed commission investigating the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Earlier in the pandemic, Daszek had a hand in the preparation of a statement signed by 27 scientists (six of which were found to have direct ties to EcoHealth) and published in the Lancet condemning the idea that the pandemic may not have had a natural origin and calling any speculation that the virus leaked from a lab a “conspiracy theory.”18 Daszak, facing allegations of conflict of interest, was subsequently recused from the U.N. backed investigation commission.19
According to Robert Redfield, MD, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the time of the COVID outbreak, it was more likely that the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from a lab rather than having a natural origin. Dr. Redfield pointed out that the gain- of-function research funded by EcoHealth established that a SARS-like bat coronavirus could be altered to infect humans by way of the protein, ACE2 receptor. He concluded that this research may have been conducted at the WIV where the first people in the world to come down with COVID worked.20
Eco Health is Back to Work With New HIH Funding
Despite a January 2023 Inspector General audit report showing that the NIH and EcoHealth failed to follow oversight and monitor procedures at the WIV,21 EcoHealth was recently awarded a four-year grant of $576,000 per year by the NIH to resume bat coronavirus research which had been suspended under the Trump administration. EcoHealth revealed that their research will no longer include collecting new bat samples nor will they work with live viruses. The WIV will contribute in excess of 300 genome sequences, in whole or in part, of SARS-related bat coronona viruses for this research. Daszak said of the new award, “Now we have the ability to finally get back to work.”22
At least one U.S. congressman, Morgan Friffen of Virginia, was outraged at this grant renewal, stating:
It’s absolutely reckless that the NIH has renewed a grant for EcoHealth Alliance given their negligence and the breach of their contract with the NIH on the coronavirus research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It is now believed likely that COVID-19 was the result of a lab incident at the Wuhan Institute. From my observations, EcoHealth Alliance has not been contrite about their failures. And even worse, they have refused to cooperate with Congress in our attempts to get information about the research they were doing at the Wuhan Institute.23
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1 Geanus J. COVID victims’ families sue NYC-based EcoHealth for ‘funding, releasing’ virus. New York Post Aug. 12, 2023.
2 Stieber Z. COVID Victims’ Families Sue NY-Based EcoHealth for ‘Funding, Releasing’ Virus. The Epoch Times Aug. 14, 2023.
3 Shellenberger M, Tainni M, Gutentag A. First People Sickened By COVID-19 Were Chinese Scientists At Wuhan Institute Of Virology, Say US Government Sources. Public June 13, 2023.
4 Stieber Z. COVID Victims’ Families Sue NY-Based EcoHealth for ‘Funding, Releasing’ Virus. The Epoch Times Aug. 14, 2023.
5 Tapscott M. NOH Failed to Monitor EcoHealth Funding, Didn’t Understand the Research Being Done: HHS-OIG Report. The Epoch Times Jan. 25, 2023.
6 Hendler C. More Evidence SARS CoV-2 Escaped from Chinese Laboratory. The Vaccine Reaction July 4, 2023.
7 Saalbach KP. Gain-of-function research. Adv Appl Microbiol 2022; 120:79-111.
8 Stieber Z. COVID Victims’ Families Sue NY-Based EcoHealth for ‘Funding, Releasing’ Virus. The Epoch Times Aug. 14, 2023.
9 Fisher BL. Coronavirus Vaccines on Fast Track As WHO Declares Global Public Health Emergency. National Vaccine Information Center Feb. 5, 2020.
10 Roos M. Social Media Companies, Fact Checkers Shrug Off Wuhan Lab Leak Embarrassment. Newsweek June 9, 2021.
11 Shellenberger M, Tainni M, Gutentag A. First People Sickened By COVID-19 Were Chinese Scientists At Wuhan Institute Of Virology, Say US Government Sources. Public June 13, 2023.
12 Tapscott M. NOH Failed to Monitor EcoHealth Funding, Didn’t Understand the Research Being Done: HHS-OIG Report. The Epoch Times Jan. 25, 2023.
14 Rumpf-Whitten S. COVID victim’s families sue EcoHealth Alliance for ‘creating’ the virus and ‘releasing it’. Fox News Aug 16, 2023.
15 Stieber Z. COVID Victims’ Families Sue NY-Based EcoHealth for ‘Funding, Releasing’ Virus. The Epoch Times Aug. 14, 2023.
17 Rumpf-Whitten S. COVID victim’s families sue EcoHealth Alliance for ‘creating’ the virus and ‘releasing it’. Fox News Aug 16, 2023.
18 Chamberlain S. EcoHealth Alliance head Daszak leaves UN-backed COVID origins probe. New York Post June 22, 2021.
19 Alexander H. British doctor Peter Daszak who tried to gag Wuhan lab leak theory is FIRED from UN commission investigating COVID after he was exposed for organizing letter denying leak claim in The Lancet medical journal. Daily Mail June 21, 2023.
20 Eban K. “This Shouldn’t Happen”: Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy. Vanity Fair Mar. 31, 2022.
21 Housman D. NIH, EcoHealth Did Not Properly Monitor Taxpayer Funds, Inspector General Finds. Daily Caller Jan. 25, 2023.
22 Kaiser J. NIH restarts bat virus grant suspended 3 years ago by Trump. Science May 8, 2023.
23 Press Release. Griffith Statement on the NIH Resuming Grant Funding for Ecohealth Alliance. Office of Congressman Morgan Griffith May 8, 2023.