US university says ‘poorly drafted’ contract with Wuhan lab may violate law


A top US biosecurity lab is responsible for signing “poorly drafted” contracts with three high-level biosecurity labs in China admitting they may have violated the law.

Three agreements, including one with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), empowered Chinese laboratories to destroy “confidential files” from any stage of the collaboration.

“A party has the right to require the other party to destroy and/or return confidential files, materials and equipment without backup,” a 2017 memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the University of Texas Medical School (UTMB) said. says. The Wuhan lab first came to light in April.

Extensive confidentiality obligations, renewable every five years,[a]We will work together and exchange documents, data, details and materials,” the document said.

Located in the first city where COVID-19 began to spread, WIV, which has long been funded by the United States to study coronaviruses, has drawn the world’s attention as a possible source of the virus. I’m here. Confidentiality agreements, combined with Beijing’s pattern of stifling debate about the origins of the pandemic, have raised questions about whether critical data may have been erased from the public eye.

Texas Medical College recently acknowledged that these confidentiality terms may violate state law.

‘monitoring’

The university recently joined two other top-level biosecurity institutes in China, the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute (pdf), the Institute of Medical Biology in Kunming, Heilongjiang, the northernmost province of China (pdf), the capital of Yunnan province in southern China, according to documents first obtained by the research group U.S. Right to Know. These two facilities of his, along with the WIV, house three of his labs, the only ones in China certified at the highest biosafety level.

The Epoch Times has reached that the university believes the inclusion of a “poorly drafted” provision was due to an “oversight” on the part of the university.

“The University of Texas Medical School (UTMB) has oversight responsibility for allowing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to include inadequate draft confidentiality provisions that may conflict with applicable state law.” , a spokesperson for the university told the Epoch Times.

The university added that it “immediately terminated the MOU containing language that violated laws and policies” after learning of the error. “A review of processes and practices at the UTMB is underway and a new level of oversight of procedures is being implemented.”

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A COVID-19 sample vial at a testing lab in Houston, Texas, Aug. 13, 2021. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

UTMB did not specify when it discovered the “error” or when it closed the MOU. However, the document stated that the confidentiality terms were in effect “after termination.”

UTMB’s Galveston National Laboratory is one of two national biocontainment laboratories built with U.S. federal grants, in partnership with three Chinese facilities over the years, provided biosecurity training to scientists and conducted collaborative research projects. In 2013 he started working with WIV.

The university argued that the agreement had minimal serious consequences.

“UTMB has confirmed that no documents or confidential information have been destroyed and has never requested the destruction of any documents,” the spokesperson said. And there was no collaboration with Chinese scientists on coronavirus research.”

Biosafety activist Edward Hammond, who has called for greater transparency at the Galveston Institute, was unsatisfied with the university’s stance.

“It’s baffling to me that this could have happened at all,” he told the Epoch Times.

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This aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (C) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Wuhan, Hubei, Central China, May 27, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Luduk

The then director of the Galveston Institute, James Leduc, signed all three contracts to his name.

In the months after the outbreak of COVID-19, LeDuc reached out to a prominent WIV scientist overseeing the bat coronavirus project, according to recently released emails analyzed by The Epoch. Helped ease scrutiny on the role of facilities. times.

In April 2020, he wrote an email to virologist Shi Zhengli, deputy director of the WIV’s P4 lab, sharing documents he had prepared for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Surveillance and Investigations to discuss the laboleek hypothesis. Did.

“Please think carefully and make any necessary changes. I want this to be as accurate as possible and I don’t want to misrepresent your valuable contribution,” he told Shi.

LeDuc appears to have changed its stance on the issue. In June, he was one of about 30 scientists and public health experts calling for greater scrutiny of the funding of potentially pandemic-causing pathogen experiments (pdf).

“Memory Hole”

The UTMB’s collaboration with Chinese laboratories has attracted congressional attention.

July, Congressman Chip Roy (Texas Republican) I have written To LeDuc issuing a warning about the UTMB contract.

“[T]The UTMB may not be the only one, but prominent recipients of federal taxpayer dollars have entered into agreements with foreign entities, especially adversaries, with obvious “memory hole” clauses such as permitting research materials and files. It raises serious concerns that it could tie. Destroyed upon request,” he said in the letter.

Epoch Times photo
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) testifies before the House Committee on Oversight Reform in Washington, July 12, 2019 (Charlotte Cuthbertson/Epoch Times)

“On the surface, this appears to be a violation of NIH’s record-keeping laws and requirements regarding grant recipients. [National Institutes of Health]”

“We want to uncover the truth about the origins of COVID-19 and America’s involvement in the Chinese Communist Party’s very dangerous research,” the lawmaker said.

“Data-sharing agreements between the Chinese Communist Party and US companies, including the University of Texas Medical School, are of great concern,” he told the Epoch Times. It is particularly alarming given its willingness to twist and subvert scientific research to fit the political agenda.”

Eva Who

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Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times, focusing on US-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Please contact Eva at [email protected]

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