Committee Investigation Led by McMorris Rodgers Uncovers Earliest Known SARS-CoV-2 Sequence Released Outside of China

Discovery Shows Virus Sequence Existed Two Weeks Earlier Than Previously Known, Undercuts China’s Timeline of Events

Jan 17, 2024

Washington, D.C. – The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19, led by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), uncovered that a SARS-CoV-2 sequence was submitted to GenBank, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) genetic sequence database operated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), on December 28, 2019—two weeks before the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) first released the virus’s sequence.

The sequence was submitted by Dr. Lili Ren, an accomplished virologist at the Institute of Pathogen Biology of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, China, which has ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and People’s Liberation Army. She is also a current subgrantee of non-profit EcoHealth Alliance on the same National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) grant as the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which has been debarred from receiving NIH grants for ten years for failing to provide laboratory records requested by NIH and for conducting research that “did lead or could lead to health issues or other unacceptable outcomes.” 

Dr. Ren’s submission was missing some of the technical (not scientific) information required for publication on GenBank. She was notified by NIH staff on December 31, 2019, that her submission would be deleted without the additional information. Dr. Ren’s sequence is not the first instance of Chinese researchers attempting to delete early SARS-CoV-2 sequences posted to GenBank, but it is the earliest known one. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has confirmed that Dr. Ren’s December 28, 2019, sequence was nearly identical to the sequence later made public by the China CDC on January 10, 2020, which at the time was the first known sequence. China has consistently stated that it published the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 as soon as it was available. 

Chair Rodgers joined Health Subcommittee Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) in releasing the following statement:

“This significant discovery further underscores why we cannot trust any of the so-called ‘facts’ or data provided by the CCP and calls into serious question the legitimacy of any scientific theories based on such information. The American people deserve to know the truth about the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and our investigation has uncovered numerous causes for concern, including how taxpayers’ dollars are spent, how our government’s public health agencies operate, and the need for more oversight into research grants to foreign scientists. In addition to equipping us to better prepare for the next pandemic, this investigation’s findings will help us as policymakers as we work to strengthen America’s biosafety practices and bolster oversight of research grants.”


  • The existence of a SARS-CoV-2 sequence days before the CCP acknowledged an outbreak, and more than two weeks before the China CDC release their sequence, calls into question how early the CCP knew about the virus and how long they withheld this information from the world, resulting in more deaths and wasting critical time to develop vaccines and treatments.
  • The NIH’s system for monitoring GenBank submissions is insufficient as the United States had an early SARS-CoV-2 sequence in our possession and apparently had no idea. 
  • The Biden administration, the NIH, and HHS have obstructed and delayed Congressional investigations into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, refused to produce this sequence for over seven months, and only released it to the Committee after the Committee threatened to subpoena the sequence.


  • May 3, 2023: E&C Republicans Seek Data and Documents from NIH on Early COVID Cases. CLICK HERE to read the letter. 
  • August 9, 2023: E&C Presses Unresponsive NIH for Answers about COVID Origins and Risky Research Projects. CLICK HERE to read the letter. 
  • September 28, 2023: E&C Republicans Signal Intent to Issue Subpoenas as Biden Admin Stonewalls Crucial Investigations into Government Health Agency Actions. CLICK HERE to read the letter.


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