Biden says he would revive US project to track animal viruses shelved by Trump administration last year

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Credit: Alexander Torrance

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has promised that, if elected, he will restore [a] program, called Predict, which searched for dangerous new animal viruses in bat caves, camel pens, wet markets and wildlife-smuggling routes around the globe.

The expiration of Predict just weeks before the advent of the pandemic prompted wide criticism among scientists, who noted that the coronavirus is exactly the sort of catastrophic animal virus the program was designed to head off.

In a speech on [August 27], Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, briefly alluded to the controversy as she attacked President Trump ahead of the last night of the Republican National Convention.

“Barack Obama and Joe Biden had a program, called Predict, that tracked emerging diseases in places like China,” she said late in her 20-minute speech. “Trump cut it.”

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The government agency that let Predict die last October has quietly created a $100 million program with a similar purpose as Predict, but it has a different name. The new program, set to begin in October, will be called Stop Spillover.

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Interviews with former Predict officials and grantees indicate that the program was not actively targeted by the White House in 2019, but that it was allowed to die by cautious administrators who were already under pressure to cut budgets and who feared running afoul of Mr. Trump’s hostility to foreign aid.

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