Senators Demand Transparency on NIH’s Controversial Bat Experiments


In a recent development, two senators have raised concerns about the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its controversial experiments involving coronaviruses. The senators are seeking answers about a research laboratory in Montana where U.S. taxpayer money was used to manipulate coronaviruses before the pandemic.

The laboratory, known as Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), has been under scrutiny for its past practices. The senators’ letter highlighted several protocol breaches at the lab, including an incident where a mouse infected with an Ebola-like virus escaped its cage and roamed free for a day. There were also reports of unauthorized individuals, including a child, found wandering near the lab’s primate facility.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was not immediately informed about these breaches. Lab officials initially did not believe they needed to report the escaped rodent but later did so when instructed by CDC officials. This lack of immediate transparency has sparked anger among politicians who believe it reveals concerning ties between the NIH and foreign labs.

In 2018, RML researchers infected 12 Egyptian fruit bats with a ‘SARS-like’ virus called WIV1-coronavirus. The bats were acquired from a Maryland zoo and the virus was shipped from a Wuhan lab. The research aimed to study the virus’ behavior and transmissibility. However, the research concluded that the novel virus could not cause a ‘robust infection.’

RML, established in 1928 in Hamilton, Montana, is a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility. It primarily focuses on research into vector-borne diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, as well as coronaviruses and antibiotic-resistant diseases.

Currently, the lab is investing $125 million in Covid-19 funds to construct a new biosafety level 2 lab. This new facility will support animal breeding, holding and experiment programs, as well as quarantine for animals classified as biosafety levels 3 and 4. It will also expand RML’s capabilities for studies involving exotic species, including bats.

The senators have posed several questions to the NIH, seeking clarity on the lab’s future plans. They are particularly interested in the number of live bats currently housed at the lab, the source of these animals, and whether any are being imported from foreign nations. They also want to know about any current or future projects involving EcoHealth Alliance or collaborators from the organization.

The senators are also seeking information on any future or pending RML projects that will involve researchers, laboratories, and other institutions and individuals based in the People’s Republic of China. They have asked whether the renovated RML will conduct gain-of-function research or any other type of experimentation enhancing the pathogenicity of infectious agents or creating chimeric versions.

In conclusion, the senators’ inquiry into the NIH’s controversial bat experiments is a step towards ensuring transparency and accountability in taxpayer-funded research. It is crucial that such research adheres to strict safety protocols to prevent potential health risks and pandemics.