Draft U.S. Bill Bans CDC, NIH From Funding Lab Research In China
A proposed bill moving through Congress to prohibit the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from supporting research laboratories in China is causing alarm among scientists, Jocelyn Kaiser reported for Science.
Photo Insert: The bill would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (the parent agency of the NIH and CDC) from funding WIV or "any other laboratory" in China, Russia, or any country designated by the U.S. government as a foreign adversary.
Once implemented, the proposal may halt the flow of millions of dollars to research programs in multiple fields, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, mental health, and influenza surveillance.
The proposed ban, which was included in a 2023 spending bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on June 30, arose from unsubstantiated suspicions among some lawmakers that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China released the coronavirus that sparked the current pandemic, as well as objections to other potentially dangerous biomedical experiments involving animals.
Specifically, the bill would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (the parent agency of the NIH and CDC) from funding WIV or "any other laboratory" in China, Russia, or any country designated by the U.S. government as a foreign adversary, a list that currently includes Iran and North Korea.
The purpose of the restriction, according to Utah Representative Chris Stewart, is to ensure that the United States does not fund "dangerous research" in "uncontrolled environments" abroad.
Concerns have been raised by some scientific organizations regarding the proposal's vast scope.
Eva Maciejewski, spokesman for the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), which supports animal research, says, "It seems a bit extreme." In theory, control of biosafety and animal welfare is a good thing, but in fact, there may be better approaches than barring all NIH funding to other countries.
According to Mary Lee Watts, director of federal affairs for the American Society for Microbiology, the microbiology community is equally worried.
Watts states, “International collaboration is essential to allowing our scientists to … understand disease threats wherever in the world they exist, in order to protect public health.”