Updated 5/25/2020
81 (was 77 on original letter) US Nobel Laureates in Science

May 21, 2020

Dear Secretary Azar and Director Collins:

The 81 signatories of this letter, American Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, and Physics, are gravely concerned about the recent cancellation of a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Dr. Peter Daszak at the EcoHealth Alliance in New York. We believe that this action sets a dangerous precedent by interfering in the conduct of science and jeopardizes public trust in the process of awarding federal funds for research.

For many years, Dr. Daszak and his colleagues have been conducting highly regarded, NIH-supported research on coronaviruses and other infectious agents, focusing on the transmission of these viruses from animal hosts to human beings. Their work depends on productive collaborations with scientists in other countries, including scientists in Wuhan, China, where the current pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus arose. Now is precisely the time when we need to support this kind of research if we aim to control the pandemic and prevent subsequent ones.

As has now been widely reported, the grant to the EcoHealth Alliance was abruptly terminated by NIH on April 24, 2020, just a few days after President Trump responded to a question from a reporter who erroneously claimed that the grant awarded millions of dollars to investigators in Wuhan. Despite the misrepresentation of Dr. Daszaks grant, despite the high relevance of the studies to the current pandemic, and despite the very high priority score that his application for renewal had received during peer review, the NIH informed Dr. Daszak and his colleagues that the grant was being terminated because NIH does not believe that the current project outcomes align with the program goals and agency priorities. Such explanations are preposterous under the circumstances.

We are scientists who have devoted our careers to research, both in medical and related scientific disciplines that bear on the overall health and well-being of society, as well as fundamental scientific research, much of it supported by NIH and other federal agencies. We take pride in our nations widely admired system for allocating funds based on expert review and public health needs. The abrupt revoking of the award to Dr. Daszak contravenes these basic tenets and deprives the nation and the world of highly regarded science that could help control one of the greatest health crises in modern history and those that may arise in the future.

We ask that you act urgently to conduct and release a thorough review of the actions that led to the decision to terminate the grant, and that, following this review, you take appropriate steps to rectify the injustices that may have been committed in revoking it.

Peter AgreChemistry2003
Sidney AltmanChemistry1989
Frances H. ArnoldChemistry2018
Paul BergChemistry1980
Thomas R. CechChemistry1989
Martin ChalfieChemistry2008
Elias James CoreyChemistry1990
Robert F. Curl Jr.Chemistry1996
Johann DeisenhoferChemistry1988
Joachim FrankChemistry2017
Walter GilbertChemistry1980
Dudley R. HerschbachChemistry1986
Roald HoffmannChemistry1981
Brian K. KobilkaChemistry2012
Roger D. KornbergChemistry2006
Robert J. LefkowitzChemistry2012
Michael LevittChemistry2013
Roderick MacKinnonChemistry2003
William E. MoernerChemistry2014
Mario J. MolinaChemistry1995
Richard R. SchrockChemistry2005
George P. SmithChemistry2018
James P. AllisonMedicine2018
Richard AxelMedicine2004
David BaltimoreMedicine1975
J. Michael BishopMedicine1989
Elizabeth H. BlackburnMedicine2009
Michael S. BrownMedicine1985
Linda B. BuckMedicine2004
William C. CampbellMedicine2015
Mario R. CapecchiMedicine2007
Andrew Z. FireMedicine2006
Edmond H. FischerMedicine1992
Joseph L. GoldsteinMedicine1985
Carol W. GreiderMedicine2009
Roger GuilleminMedicine1977
Leland H. HartwellMedicine2001
H. Robert HorvitzMedicine2002
Louis J. IgnarroMedicine1998
William G. Kaelin Jr.Medicine2019
Eric R. KandelMedicine2000
Craig C. MelloMedicine2006
Ferid MuradMedicine1998
Sir Richard J. RobertsMedicine1993
Michael RosbashMedicine2017
James E. RothmanMedicine2013
Randy W. SchekmanMedicine2013
Gregg L. SemenzaMedicine2019
Phillip A. SharpMedicine1993
Hamilton O. SmithMedicine1978
Thomas C. SudhofMedicine2013
Jack W. SzostakMedicine2009
Susumu TonegawaMedicine1987
Harold E. VarmusMedicine1989
Eric F. WieschausMedicine1995
Torsten N. WieselMedicine1981
Michael W. YoungMedicine2017
Barry Clark BarishPhysics2017
Steven ChuPhysics1997
Jerome I. FriedmanPhysics1990
Sheldon GlashowPhysics1979
David J. GrossPhysics2004
Wolfgang KetterlePhysics2001
Anthony J. LeggettPhysics2003
John C. MatherPhysics2006
Douglas D. OsheroffPhysics1996
James PeeblesPhysics2019
Saul PerlmutterPhysics2011
William D. PhillipsPhysics1997
H. David PolitzerPhysics2004
Adam G. RiessPhysics2011
George F. SmootPhysics2006
Horst L. StormerPhysics1998
Joseph H. Taylor Jr.Physics1993
Kip Stephen ThornePhysics2017
Daniel C. TsuiPhysics1998
Steve WeinbergPhysics1979
Rainer WeissPhysics2017
Carl E. WiemanPhysics2001
Frank WilczekPhysics2004
Robert Woodrow WilsonPhysics1978