by McKenna Dallmeyer
The Department of Education sent a letter to the University of Texas requesting all records pertaining to its dealings with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Department of Education’s Office of the General Counsel sent a letter to University of Texas Chancellor James Milliken on April 24 requesting records related to the University’s dealings with Chinese state-owned companies and universities.
The letter states that the University of Texas had “substantial contractual relations” with a Wuhan based maximum biocontainment laboratory (Wuhan MCL) also called the Wuhan Institute of Virology. MCLs “operate at the highest level of biological containment to diagnose, perform research on, and validate cures for life-threatening diseases.”
The U.S. laboratory involved, the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL), one of America’s fourteen Bio Safety Level 4 laboratories, is operated by the University of Texas’ Medical Branch Institute for Human Infections and Immunity.
On November 28, 2019, GNL revealed in a press release in SCIENCE magazine that the lab “engaged in short- and long-term personnel exchanges focused on biosafety training, building operations and maintenance, and collaborative scientific investigations in biocontainment” with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
According to an editorial in SCIENCE magazine, the establishment of the Wuhan MCL was a response to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018. There are more than fifty MCLs across the world, the leaders of which are moving toward establishing an MCL network with shared best practices in order to gain public trust.
“We succeeded in transferring proven best practices to the new Wuhan facility. Both labs recently signed formal cooperative agreements that will streamline future scientific and operational collaborations on dangerous pathogens, although funding for research and the logistics of exchanging specimens are challenges that we have yet to solve,” continued the press release.
From June 6, 2014, to June 3, 2019, the University of Texas has disclosed twenty-four contacts with Chinese state-owned universities and ten contracts with Huawei Technologies, a company that has been charged with bribery and corruption from numerous countries. These contracts amount to approximately $13 million.
Suspicions arose that UT neglected to report all gifts and exchanges between itself and the Chinese state-owned institutions. A federal mandate to report all dealings by universities with foreign countries is found in Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which promotes “financial transparency through required reporting of contracts with and gifts from a foreign source that, alone or combined, are valued at $250,000 or more in a calendar year.”
The Department of Education requested that the University of Texas provide any and all records relating to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as numerous other China-based organizations within thirty days. Failure to comply will result in the Secretary of Education requesting that the “Attorney General commence an enforcement action to compel compliance and to recover the full costs to the United States of obtaining compliance.”
The University of Texas assured Fox News, however, that they have always and will continue to comply with federal laws and regulations. The GNL has “collaborated with more than 70 countries and with scientists from the U.S. and abroad on biosafety and biosecurity, as part of its broad mission to advance global scientific collaboration,” reads the statement.
This investigation comes two months after federal investigations were launched against Yale and Harvard for their ties to the Chinese and Saudi Arabian governments, as reported on by Campus Reform.
“Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all. We will continue to hold colleges and universities accountable and work with them to ensure their reporting is full, accurate, and transparent, as required by the law,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in response to the U.S. universities’ involvement with foreign sources.
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