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Funding Gone

A project studying how coronaviruses may spread from bats to people has lost its federal US funding, Politico reports.

According to Politico, the National Institutes of Health informed EcoHealth Alliance, the sponsor of the study, that it was ending its grant. In all, it says the group has received more than $3.7 million since 2015 to study coronaviruses.

It reports that in a letter to the EcoHealth Alliance, Michael Lauer, the deputy director for extramural research at NIH, wrote that the agency does "not believe that the current project outcomes align with the program goals and agency priorities." 

However, Politico notes that a strategic plan for coronavirus research issued by NIH last week included viral origins and transmission research. Instead, it says that the loss of funding appears to stem from EcoHealth Alliance's previous ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been the subject of conspiracy theories. During a press briefing in which the funding came up, President Donald Trump said the grant would be ended soon, it adds.

EcoHealth Alliance tells Politico its researchers, supported by a previous grant, collaborated with scientists there, but have not given any money to the lab this year. In a statement, EcoHealth Alliance says it "stand[s] by our work, and by our mission."