EcoHealth Alliance

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Group.png EcoHealth Alliance   Facebook WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
AbbreviationEHA
Formation1971
FounderGerald Durrell
HeadquartersHudson Yards, New York City
LeaderPeter Daszak
Interestsviruses
Membership• Robert Hoquet
• Peter P. Daszak
• Patricia Verduin
• Nells Lippert
• Carol C. Timmis
• Winifred Zubin
• David Franz
• Thomas Geisbert
• Nancye Green
• Carlota Vollhardt
• Mark Spitzer
• Nancy Griffin
• Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy
• Dr. Amy Attas
• Dr. Frederick Baum
• Gerard B. Caddick
• Dr. Rita Colwell
• Dr. Marianne De Backer
• Margery Fischbein
• Holly Hegener
• Dr. James Hughes
• Peter S. Kaufman
• Bob Kuperman
• Margaret Loeb
• David McIntyre
• Chris McNeal
• Lori Michelin
• Ben Plumley
• Geoffrey Potter
• Lisa Silvershein
• Kimberly Spina
• Pamela Thye
• Steven Wils
• Dr. Lisa Wisniewski
• Robert Hoguet
• Sheila Patel
• Ellen Shedlarz
• Dr. Armine Arustamyan
• Dr. William Karesh
• Dr. Jonathan Epstein
• Dr. Kevin Olival
• Dr. Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio
Group interested in emerging viruses, which funded work in the WIV. The director co-signed a statement in The Lancet "to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin." In November 2020, an Email was published which indicated he had organised it, which concludes "Please note that this statement will not have EcoHealth Alliance logo on it and will not be identifiable as coming from any one organization or person, the idea is to have this as a community supporting our colleagues."

EcoHealth Alliance is a group interested on emerging viruses. It received millions of dollars from the US government, before Donald Trump stopped funding them in April 2020, concerned about its collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The director, Peter Daszak, is a UK born virologist, had publicly defended gain-of-function research and co-signed a February 2020 statement published in The Lancet in "to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin." Later it emerged that he drafted the statement and covertly arranged the 26 co-authors.

COVID-19 Origins

Full article: COVID-19 Origins

Peter Daszak, the director, co-signed a Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19, which was published in The Lancet in February 2020. It stated that " We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin."[1]

Organising Email

In November 2011 U.S. Right to Know published a tranche of emails obtained via public records requests. These include an email by Daszak in which he wrote that

“Once we’ve got a good group of around 20 well-known people, I will then circulate this via social media and email, with a link to a webserver for others in the greater science community (and interested public) to sign on to this statement. I will then present this to the ISID meeting in KL, Malaysia in 2 weeks and I think we’ll get a big impact from that community and it should then take off. Please note that this statement will not have EcoHealth Alliance logo on it and will not be identifiable as coming from any one organization or person, the idea is to have this as a community supporting our colleagues.”
Peter Daszak (6 February 2020)  [2]

Coronavirus research

The group reportedly carries out field work to collect virus samples, analyse and catalogue them and evaluate their potential for the possibility of zoonotic emergence. It uses the samples taken to evaluate potential antiviral drugs, such as Remdesivir.[3]

Gain-of-function research

After discussion emerged as to the safety of gain-of-function research into viruses by genetic modification of natural viruses, Peter Daszak stated that such research "move[d] this virus from a candidate emerging pathogen to a clear and present danger". Daszak estimated that EcoHealth Alliance had spent about $100,000 annually to collaborate with researchers at Wuhan.[4]

NIH

In 2014, the NIH gave EcoHealth Alliance a grant of $3.4 (or $3.7?)[5][6] for the study of coronaviruses in bats, to be disbursed over 6 years. This was passed on to a number of institutions researching animal viruses, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

2020 Withdrawal

In April 2020 the NIH ordered EcoHealth Alliance to cease spending the remaining $369,819 from its current NIH grant due to their research relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In May 2020, a group of 77 US Nobel Laureates in Science wrote an open letter of protest, stating their belief "that this action sets a dangerous precedent by interfering in the conduct of science and jeopardizes public trust in the process of awarding federal funds for research."[7][8]


Response

EcoHealth Alliance issued a response to the termination of their funding, which did not mention Wuhan or the "gain-of-function" research carried out there by Zhengli Shi. It did however note that "genetic sequences of two bat coronaviruses that we discovered with this grant have been used as lab tools to test the breakthrough antiviral drug Remdesivir. For that reason, it is clear that this research is vital for protecting the lives of Americans, and people around the world who are battling COVID-19".

WIV information request

In August 2020 the NIH "ordered EcoHealth Alliance to explain purported restrictions at the Wuhan institute, including "diminished cell-phone traffic in October 2019, and the evidence that there may have been roadblocks surrounding the facility from October 14-19, 2019."" EcoHealth Alliance claimed not to have any such information.[9]

Staff

“Among the policy advisors for EcoHealth Alliance are David Franz, a former commander at Fort Detrick, the main US government biowarfare/biodefence facility, who spoke in 2018 at the rightwing Hudson Institute, and Thomas Geisbert, who is doing biodefence/biowarfare work at Galveston.”[10]

Unusually for such an organization in the health sector, it is not funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.[11]

Opinions

Various members of EcoHealth Alliance including William Karesh (executive vice president for health and policy) have promoted the theory of the zoonotic origin of COVID-19.


References