On May 21, local time, 77 Nobel laureates sent a joint letter to the president of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), calling for an immediate review of NIH’s decision to cancel funding for the bat coronavirus program. The NIH’s explanation for the reasons for terminating the grant is that the study is no longer in line with the agency’s priorities. But the Nobel laureate called the explanation “absurd” in his letter. They believe that this is the time to support such research.
On April 24, NIH informed the Ecological Health Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit led by wildlife disease expert Peter Daszak, that it would end funding for its bat coronavirus research program. NIH’s funding for the project began in 2014 and will be renewed in 2019.
NIH also asked the EcoHealth Alliance to stop spending the remaining $369,819 in 2020, according to Us news site Politico.
The team of disease ecologist Peter Daszak has studied bats in caves around the world for years, sampling more than 10,000 bats and more than 2,000 other species to identify about 500 new coronaviruses.
Since 2015, the EcoHealth Alliance has received more than $3.7 million in funding to study the potential risk stoic transmission of coronaviruses from bats to humans. The work produced at least 20 academic papers, several of which were published in prestigious academic journals such as Nature.
In the letter, the 77 Nobel laureates said NIH’s actions set a dangerous precedent by interfering with scientific practices and undermined public trust in the federal research funding process.
They wrote that NIH President Francis Collins and HHS Minister Alex Aza should “act urgently to conduct a thorough review of the actions leading to the termination of the grant decision and to publish the results of the review, after which … Take appropriate measures to redress the injustices that may result from the withdrawal of grants. “
Politico reported that a sudden termination of funding for a research project was unusual for the NIH, which “usually only takes action when there is evidence of scientific misconduct or financial misconduct” and does not occur in the project.
Another 31 science associations have written to NIH President Collins calling on the NIH to “be transparent about their decision-making process on this issue … and to make sure that they are not going to be able to do so,” according to Science. The actions taken by the NIH must be reconsidered immediately. “
Among the 77 Nobel Prize winners in the letter are James Peebles, the American physicist who won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics, James P. Allison, a 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Francis H. Arnold, the 2018 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, and Barry Jae-sen, the 2017 Nobel Prize winner in physics. Barry Clark Barish et al.