The decision drew immediate criticism, and now 77 Nobel laureates and 31 scientific organizations have signed an open letter explaining why the outbreak exacerbates the consequences beyond making it more likely in the future. In the midst of a global epidemic driven by the coronavirus, it may seem like a bad time to cancel research grants for the Bat coronavirus study, but the U.S. government is doing just that, on April 24, otherwise.
The grant was made to the EcoHealth Alliance, an international group that seeks to protect people, animals, and the environment from new infectious diseases. While there is an ongoing debate over whether bats represent a larger disease than other animals, the 2002-2012 stork outbreaks clarified the possibility of us becoming infected by jumping off a coronavirus species. As a result, the EcoHealth Alliance traps bats in China and begins testing their blood and saliva for coronaviruses.
Write the prize winners, “We believe this move has set a dangerous precedent by interfering with the conduct of science and undermining public confidence in the process of providing federal funding for research.” The work can help us predict future epidemics and quickly track our ability to deal with any situation. Presumably, this could support efforts to create a universal coronavirus vaccine, which is already in people and still protects them.
At the press conference, President Trump was asked about the funding and responded: “We will end this grant soon.” One week later, all unexpected funds were pulled, removing the ability of researchers to detect future epidemic threats. The EcoHealth Alliance works with scientists around the world, including China. Unfortunately for the Coalition, their collaborators were based at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab has been blamed for various infamous but endless conspiracy theories about cooking SARS-CoV-2.
Before clarifying the importance of coronavirus research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) opted to fund the work, which has produced 20 peer-review papers since 2015. Last year they paid EcoHealth a further over 700,000 in five years.
Inequality has spread through the community, now revealed in two open letters. Nobel laureates representing most of the surviving American winners in medicine, physics, and chemistry have expressed their confidence in the work of Dr. Peter Daszak, a leading researcher at the EcoHealth Alliance. They note that “his application for innovation notes the extremely high priority score he received during the peer review.” The letter states that the program does not align with the program’s goals and the organization’s priorities that are “alarming in circumstances.”
The second letter came from 31 associations representing several thousand scientists. “The American Biomedical Research Initiative is based on two principles: international cooperation and a strong peer-review process,” they wrote, adding that “this decision sets a dangerous precedent. Or justifiable arguments on issues related to financial fraud or misconduct. “