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Lawmakers question whether feds are still funding Russian research

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House lawmakers are pressing the National Institutes of Health for answers on whether the agency has continued funding research in Russia.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers is leading the effort along with subcommittee chairs Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., and Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va.

The lawmakers sent a letter to National Institutes of Health Director Monica Bertagnolli raising concerns that currently available data may contradict NIH’s previous statements on the issue.

“We note that in a statement in an April 9, 2023, article in The Washington Times, the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research claimed that the ‘NIH currently does not fund any research in Russia,'” the letter said. “However, the Data Abyss tracker for the OSTP Russia guidance on federal funding agencies indicates that, as of April 5, 2024, the NIH has potentially 240 instances of problematic research collaborations since June 2022 that do not comply with the guidance.”

Funding research overseas, particularly via NIH, has become much more controversial since the COVID-19 pandemic. While the issue is still up for debate, many experts along with the U.S. Department of Energy and the FBI say COVID-19 likely originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab that received federal funding.

Other experts and federal agencies say COVID-19 likely began in a Wuhan wet market.

NIH did release millions of dollars in grants for coronavirus-related research to the Wuhan lab in recent years. NIH still currently funds similar research in China.

The committee gave NIH until May 14 to provide the needed information.

“To assist this examination, please review the 240 potentially problematic instances identified by the Data Abyss Tracker, determine which ones have problematic research collaborations, and detail the corrective actions taken,” the letter said. “We also request that the NIH describe any other efforts it has made to comply with the OSTP guidance.”

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