To have its research grant restored, EcoHealth Alliance has to provide the US National Institutes of Health information about its research partner, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Earlier this year, NIH informed EcoHealth Alliance that it was ending its grant to study how coronaviruses spread from bats to people, as Politico reported at the time. The group has partnered on previous grants with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been a focus of unproven conspiracy theories regarding the origins of SARS-CoV-2. The grant had come to the attention of President Donald Trump, who said it would be shut down, Politico noted.
According to the Journal, the NIH has now said it would reinstate EcoHealth Alliance's grant if it provides a sample of the coronavirus the virology institute sequenced in January, arranges for an inspection of the institute by an outside team, and accounts for other activity at the institute, such as rumors of roadblocks near its building in October.
Jimmy Kolker, a former US ambassador and former assistant secretary for global affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, says it's not unusual for NIH to seek updates on research and safety, even at a partner site, but it usually doesn't inquire about matters outside that research scope, the Journal adds.
Former NIH Director Harold Varmus tells the it that the list of conditions "is outrageous, especially when a grant has already been carefully evaluated by peer review and addresses one of the most important problems in the world right now — how viruses from animals spill over to human beings. What could be more important at the moment?"