NIH Complied With Chinese Request to Hide COVID Genomic Data Early in the Pandemic Director Admits 

Acting director admitted the coverup during questioning before the House Appropriations subcommittee.

QUICK FACTS:
  • National Institute of Health acting director Lawrence Tabak admitted that the agency complied with requests from Chinese scientists to hide the preliminary genomic sequencing data on COVID-19.
  • The NIH director confirmed the agency’s decision while testifying before the House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday, saying that the NIH had “eliminated from public view” genomic data, according to The New York Post.
  • When asked why the NIH would comply with such a request Tabak responded, “There’s no question that the communication that we had about the sequence archive … could have been improved. I freely admit that,” stated Tabak.
NIH DIRECTOR QUESTIONED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE:
  • Tabak was being questioned by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) about the reason for the data when he volunteered, “If I may, the archive never deleted the sequence, it just did not make it available for interrogation.”
  • When Beutler asked for clarification about whether the information was still available, the director said, “We have the information … Anybody who submits to the Sequence Read Archive is allowed to ask for it to be removed. And that investigator did do that. But we never erase it.”
  • “OK, so researchers can apply to the NIH and get the information from you?” Beutler asked.
  • “In the way that it was originally eliminated from public view, it was withdrawn, and that’s the most difficult for people to access,” replied Tabak. “The error that was made, and we found this out after a review of all of our processes, was it should have been suppressed. The distinction being that if it’s withdrawn, it is kept archivally on a tape drive — old technology, but that’s how it’s done. But when it is withdrawn, it can still be accessed by accession number, and so researchers are able to access that information.”
BACKGROUND:
  • A previous Vanity Fair report uncovered the NIH was responding to a request from the Chinese to remove the data from the public. 
  • The data, it is believed, could resolve the question of whether the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or passed naturally from animals to humans.