Proposal Title: DEFUSE – Defusing the Threat of Bat-borne Coronaviruses (2018)
Proposal Identifier: HR001118S0017-PREEMPT-FP-019
Amounts Requested by EcoHealth Alliance:
Phase I $8,411,546
Phase II $5,797,699
Total: $14,209,245


The DEFUSE proposed project by EHA was rejected by DARPA, although “if funding became available”, certain components of particular interest could have gone ahead, subject to a clear contractual Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) risk mitigation plan that ‘includes a responsible communications plan’.


The Biological Technologies Office of DARPA reviewed the EcoHealth Alliance DEFUSE proposal and the Evaluation Reports and decided it was “selectable”. In doing so, two out of three reviewers considered the aim of preempting “zoonotic spillover through reduction of viral shedding in the bat caves” as of interest to DARPA. These reviewers assessed the EHA and Collaborators team and concluded that:

-They have plenty of prior experience.

-They have access to Yunnan caves where bats are infected with SARSr viruses.

-They have carried out past surveillance work

-They have developed geo-based risk maps of zoonotic hotspots

-Their proposed experimental work is logical and can validate molecular and evolutionary

-Their proposed preemption approaches can rapidly be validated using bat and “batenized” mouse models. However, the Biological Technologies Office did not recommend it be funded at that time because significant weaknesses were identified.

Rejection Letter – Findings p. 2/2

  1. The proposal is considered to potentially involve GoF/DURC research because they propose to synthesize spike glycoproteins which bind to human cell receptors and insert them into SARSr-CoV backbones to assess whether they can cause SARS-like disease.
  2. However the proposal does not mention or assess potential risks of Gain of Function (GoF) research.
  3. Nor does the proposal mention or assess Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) issues, and thus fails to present a DURC risk mitigation plan.
  4. The proposal hardly addresses or discusses ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI).
  5. The proposal fails to discuss problems with the proposed vaccine delivery systems caused by the known issues of variability in vaccine dosage.
  6. The proposal did not provide sufficient information about how EHA would use any data obtained and how they would model development or perform any necessary statistical analysis.
  7. The proposal did not explain clearly how EHA will take advantage of their previous work, nor how that previous work could be extended.
  8. The proposal failed to clearly assess how it would deploy and validate the “TA2 preemption methods” in the wild. This refers to carrying out experiments with effective immune boosting molecules and delivery techniques via FEA aerosolization mechanism at one test and. two control bat cave sites in Yunnan, China (PARC, EHA, WIV).
  9. The proposal does not address concerns about these vaccines not being able to protect against the wide variety of coronaviruses in bat caves which are constantly evolving due to insufficient epitope coverage.
  10. DRASTIC independently assesses that the tone of the proposal (see for instance the ‘our cave complex’) and the deep suggested involvement of some of the WIV parties (Shi Zheng Li employed half-time for 3 years – paid via the grant – and invited to DARPA headquarters at Arlington), may not have helped either – especially in the absence of any DURC risk mitigation program.

It is clear that the proposed DEFUSE project led by Peter Daszak could have put local communities at risk by failing to consider the following issues:

  • Gain of Function
  • Dual Use Research of Concern
  • Vaccine epitope coverage
  • Regulatory requirements
  • ELSI (ethical, legal, and social issues)
  • Data Usage


UNITED AIRLINES CEO: ‘MANDATORY Vaccines Are Coming; Public Must Comply’

CHICAGO– United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Tuesday that mandatory vaccines are coming and that the public and employees alike will have no choice but to comply.

During a speaking engagement at the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday, Kirby pushed mandatory vaccines for employees, saying “It will just become what is expected and what most companies do.”

“Once the ball gets rolling, it’s going to roll all the way to the bottom,” Kirby said, adding that “a big second wave” of companies will mandate vaccines in a “snowball effect.”

“I’m realistic enough, while I think it’s the right thing to do, to know United Airlines alone can’t do it and have it stick. There don’t have to be a ton of others, but there have to be others,” Kirby urged.

Kirby pointed out that companies can require workers to get the vaccine under a ruling by The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but added that he doesn’t believe that mandatory vaccines for employees alone are enough adding that he supports mandatory vaccine passports not only for air travel, but for everyday activities such as attending concerts and other public events.

“It gives people a pretty strong incentive, because that’s the way they can get their life back,” Kirby proclaimed, adding “We think it’s a key to opening not just international borders and aviation, but the economy.”

Americans earning over $75,000 May Not Qualify For Next Stimulus Under New Proposal

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden pushes for another round of stimulus payments for most Americans, calls are escalating to target the aid solely to low- and moderate-income families, and new data suggests that it would provide the most needed and effective boost for the economy.

Families earning under about $75,000 typically spend the money quickly, according to a new analysis of how Americans are using the $600 payments this month, a study by Opportunity Insights, a nonprofit research organization. Families earning above that threshold typically save the stimulus payment, which provides little help to the overall economy and signals that the money was not as urgently needed.

Lawmakers from both major political parties lobbied the White House over the weekend for a less costly relief package that would only send stimulus payments to the most needy. Under Biden’s proposal, most U.S. households would receive $1,400 payments.

“Targeting the stimulus payments to lower-income households would both better support the households most in need and provide a large boost to the economy in the short run,” said John Friedman, an economics professor at Brown University and co-director of Opportunity Insights. “These checks are really impactful for lower-income households.”

Friedman, Harvard University economics professor Raj Chetty and economist Michael Stepner analyzed credit and debit card data and found a clear rise in spending for families and individuals who earn less than about $50,000 after the stimulus payments started to widely hit bank accounts on Jan. 4. Spending barely moved for families and individuals earning more than $78,000.

The price tag to send another round of checks to couples earning more than $75,000 and singles earning more than $50,000 would be $200 billion, yet the researchers estimate that this group would spend $14 billion of that money — about 7%.

The initial round of $1,200 stimulus checks in the spring saw some increase in spending across all income levels, Friedman and Chetty say, but this second stimulus is revealing a wide gap. That’s probably because the recession is largely over for the rich, while poorer households are still deep in it. The Federal Reserve says unemployment for low-wage workers is still about 20% — a near depression-like state.

“We’re seeing a pretty similar effect in how low-income households spent the stimulus in the first and second rounds and a smaller spending impact for high-income households,” Friedman said. “Low-income household have suffered by far the biggest economic shock. They need the help the most.”

Their findings are backed up by other surveys and analyses of how people used their first stimulus payments. The U.S. Census found households with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 “were more likely to use their stimulus payments to pay off debt or to add to savings, compared to households overall.” Nearly 88% of households with less than $25,000 intended to spend the stimulus.

Andrew Rafner, 32, has been unemployed since mid-March after working at a comic book shop in Los Angeles. He and his girlfriend have struggled to pay bills at times. The stimulus check he just received was a lifeline for food and rent.

“It’s been nice to go to grocery store and not really have to worry about what to eat,” Rafner said.

Netspend, a prepaid debit card company, said it processed more than $850 million stimulus payments in January for about 900,000 customers. Prepaid debit card users tend to be lower income, and Netspend confirmed that most of the money has been spent quickly for basic necessities such as food and gas.

“For the first and second round of individual stimulus payments, Netspend saw its customers spend funds quickly,” said Netspend spokesman Adam Dawes. “Consistent with the first round of individual stimulus payments, these customers are using their funds to make purchases at grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and gas stations.”

Some lawmakers and economists have suggested that the stimulus checks are a waste of money and that the government would be better off focusing aid on unemployed. But many workers who have been able to return to jobs say they are struggling to get the hours and pay they once did.

Betty Laribo is a nurse’s aide in Morgantown, W.Va. Before the pandemic hit, she was working “per diem” and had no trouble getting booked as many days as she wanted at health-care facilities that needed extra help. Now she says she’s lucky to get a day’s work every two weeks.

As a single mom of four kids who are all in virtual schooling, Laribo is doing what she can to get by. She had fallen three months behind on her car payment and was worried about losing it until her stimulus payment arrived Friday.

“I paid my rent, my car payment and got groceries for the house and a few fun things for my kids,” said Laribo, a military veteran. “A lot of us are still working, but our hours have been so drastically affected by COVID that we might as well be unemployed.”

Laribo said it’s frustrating that people earning as much as $75,000 a year were receiving the same stimulus payment that she was.

Eligibility details for a proposed third round of payments have not been worked out, but individuals earning up to $87,000 a year and married couples earning up to $174,000 a year received at least some money in the second round of stimulus payments that Congress passed over the holidays. About 160 million households probably will get a payment.

Some people who received a payment in January have posted on social media that they did not need the money and are donating it to charity.

“Stimulus checks arrived, time for a big food bank donation,” tweeted one woman last week.

But data indicates that most people who did not need the money right away are saving the stimulus payment or using it to pay off student loan, credit card or mortgage debt.

Heather Long of the Washington Post contributed to the contents of this report.

WHO WILL BLINK? White House Ups Offer to Nearly $1.9 Trillion Ahead of Tuesday Stimulus Deadline

WASHINGTON– White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows announced Monday that the White House has increased its stimulus offer as the Tuesday deadline to secure a deal before the election reaches its final hours.

“We’ve increased our offer up to almost $1.9 trillion,” Meadows told reporters on Monday morning. “[The president] is willing to give some additional money in terms of direct payments, he’s willing to give some additional money in terms of PPP to restaurants and hotels and small businesses.”

The White House announcement comes in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s incistence that a deal must be reached by Tuesday in order for legislation to have a chance of passing before the election. Pelosi — who spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the weekend and is expected to talk with him again on Monday — said while there’s been progress, no deal has yet been reached.

“While there was some encouraging news, much work remains,” Pelosi said in a statement Sunday. “I am optimistic that we can reach agreement before the election.”

Pelosi, (D-CA), has proposed a $2.2 trillion package that the White House has steadfastly rejected.