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April 26, 2021

HELP Committee hearing on protecting US biomedical research

On April 22, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing entitled, "Protecting U.S. Biomedical Research: Efforts to Prevent Undue Foreign Influence," where the committee heard testimony from officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) around their efforts to prevent and act against grant fraud and other activities to prevent, identify and address threats from foreign entities. The panel discussed processes in place to collaborate with and educate stakeholders at NIH grant recipient organizations to detect and prevent grant fraud, in addition to extramural awareness programs that include broader education about potential threats and identification of bad actors. They also discussed processes in place to ward off threats, including an extensive process for approval of data sharing requests and other similar policies, updated grant applications and guidance, and intra-agency efforts to improve information sharing and develop more comprehensive training programs.

Several committee members noted the need to balance the importance of global sharing of scientific data, such as with the sequencing of COVID-19, with the importance of mitigating national security threats. The panel acknowledged that data-sharing, such as in genomics, has been a critical part of science for the last 30 years and that they have policies in place like their genomics data policy that aims to balance these risks. Several committee members also brought up other concerns that were not specific to NIH, such as the potential for misuse of sensitive genetic data, given some third-party genetic testing is done abroad; vulnerabilities inherent in the expansion of network-connected technologies and increased potential for cyber-attacks; and recent attempts by North Korea to hack COVID-19 vaccination data. While panelists noted these issues were outside of their wheelhouse, they did note that they recommend universities bolster cybersecurity and provide requisite training, despite conflicting guidance from the GAO that recommends relieving some of this burden on research institutions.

Additional information is available in the attached Tax Alert.


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
   • Heather Meade (
   • Laura Dillon (


HELP Committee hearing