The revelation earlier this week that the US National Institute of Health terminated the funding of a project examining how coronaviruses move from bats to humans has raised concerns among scientists, ScienceInsider reports.
Politico reported earlier this week that the NIH cancelled EcoAlliance's grant as the agency did "not believe that the current project outcomes align with the program goals and agency priorities." Politico noted, though, that EcoHealth Alliance researchers had previously worked with researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been at the center of conspiracy theories regarding the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Emails ScienceInsider has since obtained seem to suggest the grant was halted due to those allegations, even though, as it adds, there's no evidence the virus originated there and that researchers who've worked with the lab hold its director "in high regard."
Boston University's Gerald Keusch, a former director of NIH's Fogarty International Center, tells ScienceInsider that this sets "a horrible precedent."
"There's a culture of attacking really critical science for cheap political gain," Dennis Carroll, the former director of the emerging threats division of the US Agency for International Development, adds at ScienceInsider.
It further writes that it's unclear whether NIH can halt a funded grant when there's no evidence of misconduct by the researchers, noting that EcoHealth Alliance researchers have not been accused of doing anything wrong.