The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China's central Hubei province on April 17. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

An American scientist told CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday his group's grant for a years-long project with the Wuhan Institute of Virology was stopped following unproven claims that the novel coronavirus is manmade or escaped from a Chinese government lab.

Driving the news: Peter Daszak, president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, said the National Institutes of Health told him two weeks ago funding was canceled "for convenience and it doesn't fit within the scope of NIH's priorities." The decision came after President Trump said on April 17 he was looking into claims that the Obama administration had given the group a grant of $3.7 million, vowing to "quickly" end it.

The big picture: The research the NIH previously funded examined the role of bats in the origins of coronaviruses in China. USA Today notes the grant "continued under the Trump administration until it was recently rescinded."

"It is misleading to claim that the Obama administration gave funding to a Chinese research institute. It is true that funds were provided to a project where an American research group worked alongside a Chinese organization. Claims that the funding helped produce the pandemic are unsubstantiated. A total of $3.7 million was not given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, only about $600,000." 
— USA Today on EcoHealth Alliance funding claim

How it works: The British-born Daszak told CBS the group's strategy is to "go to the wildlife source, find out where the viruses are, and try and shift behaviors like hunting and killing wildlife that would lead to the next outbreak." "We also get the information into vaccine and drug developers so they can design better drugs," he added.

  • Daszak told USA Today Sunday his group's grant "was specifically designed to locate where these viruses are and to stop them from harming Americans."
  • "Once we've overcome COVID-19, what about COVID-20? What about COVID-21? Who is going to go out and find those?"

Of note: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is investigating concerns raised by State Department officials who visited the Wuhan institute in January 2018, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian points out.

  • The officials' cables warning of safety issues at the lab were leaked and published by the Washington Post on April 14.
  • "The messages also noted that the lab's research on coronaviruses from bats showed that such viruses had potential for human-to-human transmission and thus posed a risk of pandemic," Axios' China reporter notes.

What he's saying: Despite the intelligence community making clear that the origins of the pandemic are still unknown, the president said on May 1 he has a "high degree of confidence" that the outbreak began in a lab accident in China.

  • Trump tweeted Sunday evening that CBS and "60 Minutes" were "doing everything within their power, which is far less today than it was in the past, to defend China and the horrible Virus pandemic that was inflicted on the USA and the rest of the World. I guess they want to do business in China!"

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a fact-check on the NIH funding of EcoHealth Alliance.

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Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

MyPillow CEO defends promoting unproven COVID-19 "cure"

CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday clashed with MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell, a Trump supporter, for promoting oleandrin, an unproven therapeutic treatment for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Lindell and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson both have financial stakes in the company that develops oleandrin and would profit if the treatment is sold widely. It's part of a pattern in which entrepreneurs, often without rigorous vetting, push unproven products to Trump — knowing their sales pitches might catch his eye, Axios's Jonathan Swan writes.

Aug 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus forces rethinking of safety net for working women

Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for working women, but one prominent women's policy expert says it could provide a new opportunity to create the kinds of social supports they should have had all along.

Driving the news: In an interview with "Axios on HBO," Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said the pandemic has created a "she-cession" — a loss of jobs that has disproportionately affected women and highlighted the gaps in the safety net for working families.