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House Republicans raise alarm over China's potential use of US funds in military research

"Recent reports have raised concerns about the NIH’s ability to screen for national security issues," the Republicans said.

Published: April 3, 2024 9:45am

House Republicans are urging the Government Accountability Office, Congress's nonpartisan watchdog, to investigate what safeguards the National Institutes of Health has in place to ensure China does not use research funds to bolster its military or unethically use humans in research studies.  

"Recent reports have raised concerns about the NIH’s ability to screen for national security issues," the Republicans, led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Wa., wrote in a letter Tuesday to Government Accountability Office Comptroller Gene Dodaro.

The lawmakers cited how a six-month Vanity Fair investigation discovered that the Energy Department has warned NIH for a decade about how overseas partners could misuse U.S.-funded biological research. Additionally, the Health and Human Services Inspector General's Office and the Government Accountability Office have all reported that NIH has issues safeguarding foreign entities that receive grants. 

The Republicans are also concerned that NIH funding may be connected to researchers affiliated with the "Seven Sons of National Defense," a group of seven universities historically tied to China's defense industry. NIH funding may also be connected to questionable research groups in China and the unethical use of DNA from minorities in studies. 

The other Republicans who signed the letter include Health Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie, Ky., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith, Va. 

The lawmakers asked for GAO to investigate multiple things, such as whether the NIH has a list of institutions banned from receiving funding and what the NIH policy is on using unethical research.

Congressional Republicans have raised concerns and opened probes into the U.S. funding of research in China multiple times over the past several years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated out of Wuhan.

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