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'Bout a Dozen

The National Institutes of Health has asked a federal oversight office to review a dozen allegations of foreign influence on US research, Stat News reports.

In a letter made public this week, Daniel Levinson, the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, responded to questions from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chair of the Senate finance committee, about threats to the US biomedical research enterprise by foreign entities. In it, Levinson notes that NIH recently referred 12 cases related to foreign influence to his office for investigation. These cases broadly seem to involve allegations of principal investigators who failed to disclose ties to foreign affiliations on grant applications, Levinson writes.

In August, NIH Director Francis Collins wrote that he had concerns about threats to the "robustness" of the biomedical research enterprise and told Stat News at the time that the agency was investing instances in which agency-funded researchers may not have discloses foreign financial contributions.

Since that time, Stat News notes that Grassley has repeatedly asked the agency for more information. Grassley sent Levinson a letter with six inquiries in January.

"Foreign threats to our taxpayer-funded research and American intellectual property must be taken seriously," Grassley says in a statement, adding that he plans to continue to investigate this issue.