KEY POINTS

  • The Education Department is investigating the UT System for its Wuhan Laboratory links
  • Its medical laboratory apparently did a lot of work with a biocontainment facility in Wuhan
  • This same facility was under investigation by the U.S. Intelligence Agency community

The University of Texas System (UT System) is reportedly under investigation for its links to an infectious disease facility in Wuhan, China, the ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Education sent a letter to the UT System, through its Chancellor James Milliken on April 24, asking to provide documentation of its contracts or records of gifts from China, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The report cited that UT System had at least $13 million in contracts with a few Chinese state-owned universities and the technology company, Huawei, from June 2014 to June 2019. Its researchers reportedly worked with Shi Zhengli, a Wuhan expert on SARS-like coronavirus originating from bats, while officials would also like to determine if the UT System received gifts from Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom. The videoconferencing platform became increasingly popular in light of the worldwide stay-at-home orders.

Experts at Galveston National Laboratory, which is under the university's medical branch, also allegedly worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In the last few weeks, the biocontainment laboratory has been under investigation by the U.S. intelligence community to determine whether the novel coronavirus that causes the deadly COVID-19 disease originated from a laboratory.

980px-Galveston_National_Laboratory_at_UTMB Scientists at the Galveston National Laboratory work with 70 other countries, including experts from laboratories in Wuhan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Education has a long-standing policy to require universities to disclose contracts or gifts from foreign countries, which are over $250,000. Enforcing this policy accelerated amid reports that the coronavirus pandemic was man-made.

A spokesperson for the UT System said that it will respond to the Department of Education's request in due time.

A spokesperson for Zoom, on the other hand, told Fox News that it has "not given any gifts to the University of Texas," and it's not a Chinese company.

"Zoom is an American company, publicly traded on the Nasdaq, with headquarters in California and a founder and CEO who is an American citizen,” Yuan's spokesperson said.

A representative of the Galveston facility said that its scientists have worked with over 70 countries on matters of biosafety and biosecurity and that the UT System's medical branch "complies with obligations to report fiduciary relationships as required by statute."

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), however, issued a statement Thursday to say that the virus was not genetically modified in a laboratory despite admitting that it looked into the Wuhan facility.

"The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to U.S. policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China," the statement read. "The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified."