NIH Director Says There Was A Chinese Data “Error”

( Last week, acting NIH director Dr. Lawrence Tabak told lawmakers that the manner in which the NIH took the COVID-19 sequencing data offline was an error.

During a hearing Wednesday, Tabak admitted that eliminating it from “public view” by marking the data “withdrawn” was an error. After reviewing the process, Tabak added, the agency determined that the data should have been “suppressed.”

Sequences marked “withdrawn” are only kept on a tape drive. But when data is marked “suppressed,” it is still accessible by its ID number, Tabak explained. Suppressed data can still be accessed by researchers.

In early 2020, the COVID sequencing data was submitted to the Sequence Read Archive managed by the National Institutes of Health. Three months later, the researcher who initially submitted the data asked that it be “retracted,” so the NIH took the data offline.

American researcher, Jesse Bloom, first disclosed this action in June 2021. In response, a spokesperson from the NIH said the agency would not change its policy recognizing a submitter’s right to his own data or his right to request that the data be retracted.

During testimony before the House Appropriations Committee last Wednesday, Washington Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler told Dr. Tabak that she had been tracking reports of deletions since 2021 and expressed concern that “the Chinese Communist Party had something to do” with the decision to take the COVID sequencing data offline.

Beutler asked Tabak what steps the NIH had taken to secure the archive from such efforts.

Tabak conceded that the agency’s communication about the sequence archive “could have been improved.” He said the archive didn’t delete the COVID sequence, instead, it “did not make it available for interrogation.” The NIH, Tabak added, still has the sequencing data.

But according to watchdog Empower Oversight, the way the NIH handled the data effectively deleted it.

Empower Oversight President Jason Foster told The Epoch Times that the data was withdrawn from public view at the request of a researcher from Wuhan. While the name of the researcher who requested the data be removed is redacted, Foster said internal emails suggested it was Ming Wang, a researcher from the Hospital of Wuhan University.