'Highly suspect': DARPA tried to hire executive at Wuhan lab funder as COVID emerged, he says

Virologist who suppressed lab-leak debate through social media fact-checks had "obvious conflicts of interest" through undisclosed gain-of-function research, former Senate investigator says.

Updated: September 20, 2022 - 11:22pm

Sixteen months after the Biden administration conceded COVID-19 might have emerged "from a laboratory accident," largely ending social media censorship of the onetime "conspiracy theory," fresh scrutiny is falling on a nonprofit conduit for federal research grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and a purported fact-checker.

A former vice president of the EcoHealth Alliance claims it "developed" SARS-CoV-2 and "described in detail" how it would do so in its successful research proposal to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its component National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Andrew Huff, whose U.S. government service includes Army specialist in Iraq, Department of Homeland Security research fellow and Sandia National Laboratories analyst, filed a 10-page sworn declaration as part of a larger packet compiled by attorney Thomas Renz, who has filed legal challenges against COVID mandates.

The introduction to Renz's report pays tribute to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and former President Trump as officials who "were right" that "SARS-COV2 was indeed created in a lab ... with funding from Anthony Fauci's NIH/NIAID."

Paul didn't go that far in a recent interview, claiming that "if it came from a lab, the fact that [Fauci] approved the research and funded the lab would draw culpability to himself" and NIH, "who made the unwise decision to send money to China to do dangerous research."

The senator said he'd try to appoint a special counsel to investigate Fauci and the federal COVID response.

"We have some good Rs that have been going after #Fauci and so we spent months working to put together what they needed to take action," Renz tweeted Sunday, though none of the officials the packet names seems to have acknowledged it. 

Johnson's office responded to a query but hasn't answered whether the senator was working with Renz or Huff, who refers to himself as a whistleblower. EcoHealth didn't respond to queries.

In a press conference Saturday, Renz said that offers he made to present the evidence his team has put together were "turned down by some mainstream right-wing outlets"  going back to May. Renz has equated Fauci with Joseph Goebbels, the chief propagandist for Nazi Germany, and shared the hashtag #FauciForPrison.

Huff has taken an active role promoting his declaration, tweeting the Renz packet and sharing it  directly with several Twitter accounts including those of the House Republicans, public health watchdog U.S. Right to Know and the conservative Libs of TikTok.

He said he first came to oppose gain-of-function (GoF) research through his emerging infectious diseases doctoral work at the University of Minnesota with Michael Osterholm, now an advisor to President Biden. GoF compresses "thousands of years of unnatural evolution" into months, "with the likelihood of success decreasing in every timestep."

Huff left Sandia in late 2014 to become a staff scientist at EcoHealth, where he reviewed a proposal to NIH that "clearly stated" GoF SARS-CoV-2 research "was already underway" at WIV "with the support" of the U.S. Agency for International Development. 

He witnessed "firsthand presentations" by EcoHealth staff and research partners at WIV and the University of North Carolina on the group's GoF research and warned leadership, including President Peter Daszak, about "biosafety and biosecurity risks in contract laboratories" doing its work, to no avail.

Huff said he helped create an investment pitch for the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel to expand EcoHealth's GoF and "humanized mice" research. 

When he became VP in late 2015, Huff said he learned the group "depended heavily on government contract salary overhead to remain solvent" and noticed "irregular financial transactions" such as "double dipping on contracts, between government organizations and private donors" including the Gates Foundation.

"Coincidentally," the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tried to poach Huff through a "highly suspect" recruitment in fall 2019, when "the first cases of COVID-19 likely emerged." He believes "people working within the US government potentially identified me as a risk to knowing firsthand" that COVID-19's emergence "was a consequence" of federal sponsorship of "genetic engineering" and calculated that hiring Huff would legally muzzle him.

Scripps Research Institute virus researcher Kristian Andersen, who had warned Fauci early that portions of SARS-CoV-2 "(potentially) look engineered," saw his NIH grants skyrocket after he got in line with Fauci's view that COVID emerged naturally, Huff said.

Andersen's total funding per month and calendar year more than doubled after Fauci's controversial February teleconference with virus researchers, when the lab-leak theory apparently went from default to demonized. His total continuing funding tripled, Huff said, citing NIH databases.

Andersen didn't respond to a request for comment.

The declaration ends with vague allegations that Huff has been "severely harassed by what appears to be state-sponsored actors based on the level of sophistication, persistence, and duration, of the harassment and crimes committed against me." 

When Rep. Jordan accused the FBI of retaliating against a whistleblower, Huff responded that the agency "did the same to me ... with the help of the Michigan State Police," who Huff said called him while trespassing "on my property in civilian clothes." 

He separately tweeted at Jordan: "Your affiliates attended my talk in Ohio and stated that they were going to speak with you."

A scientist who helped suppress reporting and debate on the lab-leak theory did not disclose in her fact-checks for social media platforms or media interviews that "her name has appeared on multiple grants for projects aiming to manipulate coronaviruses," according to sleuthing by former Senate Judiciary Committee investigator Paul Thacker.

In his Disinformation Chronicle newsletter Tuesday, Thacker said virologist Danielle Anderson had "obvious conflicts of interest" through her association with an NIH award to EcoHealth's Daszak and a grant application rejected by DARPA "in part for risky gain of function research."

Anderson's fact-check for Health Feedback, whose methods were recently scrutinized by University of California San Francisco epidemiologists, limited the reach of a New York Post op-ed that floated the lab-leak theory soon after Fauci's teleconference. 
 

Her article remains live 20 months after the State Department declassified intelligence that "WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China's military" going back to 2017. Facebook stopped censoring claims that COVID was "man-made or manufactured" a few months later.

Anderson was portrayed as a martyr for science in a Nature article included in an award-winning package, but none of it noted Anderson's association with GoF research, Thacker said. The Daszak award, for example, showed Anderson had received "a grant from the Chinese Academy of Sciences — yes, the science institution run by the Chinese Communist Party." 

Health Feedback, Nature and Anderson didn't respond to Just the News queries.

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