The Pentagon gave $39 million to a charity that funded controversial coronavirus research at a Chinese lab accused of being the source for Covid-19, federal data reveals.
The news comes as the charity’s chief, British-born scientist Dr. Peter Daszak, was exposed in an alleged conflict of interest and back-room campaign to discredit lab leak theories.
The charity, EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), has come under intense scrutiny after it emerged that it had been using federal grants to fund research into coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
The U.S. nonprofit, set up to research new diseases, has also partly funded deeply controversial ‘gain of function’ experiments, where dangerous viruses are made more infectious to study their effect on human cells.
A political storm broke when former president Donald Trump canceled a $3.7 million grant to the charity last year amid claims that Covid-19 was created in, or leaked from, the Wuhan lab funded by EHA.
But federal grant data assembled by independent researchers shows that the charity has received more than $123 million from the government – from 2017 to 2020 – and that one of its biggest funders is the Department of Defense, funneling almost $39 million to the organization since 2013.
Exactly how much of that money went toward research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is unknown.
Grants from the Pentagon included $6,491,025 from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) from 2017 to 2020 with the description: ‘Understanding the risk of bat-borne zoonotic disease emergence in Western Asia.’
The grant was categorized as ‘scientific research – combating weapons of mass destruction.’
The majority of the DoD funding came from the DTRA, a military branch with a mission to ‘counter and deter weapons of mass destruction and improvised threat networks.’
EHA also received $64.7 million from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), $13 million from Health and Human Services, which includes the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control, $2.3 million from the Department of Homeland Security, and $2.6 million from the National Science Foundation.
A government funding figure of $3.4 million was widely reported, after White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci was questioned in a Senate hearing on how much money the National Institutes of Health sent to the Wuhan lab via its grants to EcoHealth Alliance in 2019.
But the total grant figures including Pentagon funding dwarf that number.
Researchers James Baratta and Mariamne Everett assembled grant filings from US government agencies to EHA, which were published on popular science site Independent Science News in December.
In the disclosure EHA says it is ‘the recipient of various grant awards from federal agencies including the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense.’
It does not disclose the size of its DoD funding.
In 2014 the Obama administration outlawed gain of function research, such as the experiments funded by EHA, after concerns were raised among scientists that it could lead to a global pandemic from a genetically enhanced virus escaping a lab.
But EHA reportedly continued to legally fund the practice, using a loophole that allowed for the research in cases ‘urgently necessary to protect the public health or national security.’
One notable EHA ‘policy advisor’ is David Franz, a former commander at the principal US government biowarfare and biodefense facility Fort Detrick.
Franz was an official in the United Nations Special Commission which inspected for bioweapons in Iraq.
The charity’s head, Daszak, has been accused of orchestrating a behind-the-scenes ‘bullying’ campaign to ensure the blame for covid-19 did not fall on the Wuhan lab he funded.
The 55-year-old worked closely with the lab’s so-called ‘bat woman,’ Shi Zhengli, in their studies of coronaviruses.
In February 2020 Daszak persuaded more than two dozen other scientists to sign off on a letter he had written to highly respected medical journal The Lancet, that was seen as so influential that it cowed most experts into refusing even to consider that the virus could have been man-made and escaped from the Wuhan institute.
Former high-level Clinton administration staffer Jamie Metzl, who now sits on the World Health Organization’s advisory committee on human genome editing, told DailyMail.com that the Lancet letter ‘was scientific propaganda and a form of thuggery and intimidation.’
Freedom of Information Act disclosures revealed Daszak tried to distance his charity from the letter to make it appear it was coming from ‘a community supporting our colleagues.’
The charity chief told his fellow signatories in an email that the letter would not be sent under the EcoHealth logo ‘and will not be identifiable as coming from any one organization or person.’
The joint letter, published in the journal on February 19 last year, praised the Chinese ‘who continue to save lives and protect global health during the challenge of the Covid-19 outbreak’ and added ‘We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.’
Despite his close connections to the Chinese lab, Daszak was also picked by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be part of its 13-member team that was tasked with finding the cause of the pandemic which began in Wuhan, a city of some 11 million people in Central China.
Metzl told DailyMail.com the appointment was a ‘massive and outrageous conflict of interest,’ allowing a man who had significant financial and reputational stakes in discrediting lab leak theories to investigate those theories.
Prominent scientists have criticized the WHO probe, which dismissed lab leak theories, as lackluster and incomplete.
In a Freedom of Information disclosure of Fauci’s emails obtained by Buzzfeed last month, Daszak thanked the White House doctor for pushing back on the theory that covid-19 was man made.
‘I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,’ Daszak wrote in April 2020.
Fauci says the emails have been taken out of context.
EHA’s most recent financial statements filed with the IRS say that around 90 per cent of its funding comes from government sources.
The 2019 report says Daszak was paid a total $410,801 for the year, including $311,815 base pay, $42,250 bonus, $24,500 deferred compensation and $32,236 nontaxable benefits.