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Israel’s Institute for Biological Research Under Fire for Covid Response

Israel’s State Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman issued a report highly critical of how Israel’s Institute for Biological Research handled the Coronavirus outbreak and dealt with research into a Covid vaccine, alleging incompetence. The Institute had spent 230 million Shekels (about $70 million at the time) on its Covid project when it was shut down in July 2022, with no Covid vaccines getting developed. And yet, by August 2022 around the world 41 different Covid had been developed around the world.

“The project was not conducted in accordance with the authorized procedures at the Institute,” charged Engelman, adding that it was done in a way, “not consistent with the rules of proper administration.”

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“There was no connection between the budget and the timetables presented for the project, and the reality,” added Engelman.

Engelmen also charged that the Institute was guilty of lying to the government about its actions saying, “The project failed. The biological institute presented a false representation of progress and costs, when the reality was completely different. Even if this can be accepted in the initial period of the state of emergency, you cannot accept conduct that is inconsistent with the rules of proper administration in the period after [the initial emergency]”

And the State Comptroller also blamed Israel’s Ministry of Defense for the mistakes made saying that it, “allowed the project to proceed without the required control processes taking place.”

Israel’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement in response to the State Comptroller’s allegations, defending the Institute and explaining away mistakes made as no different as what happened the world over during the initial panic over the Covid crisis, even praising it.

“The outbreak of the Corona epidemic, at the beginning of 2020,” it said, “was accompanied throughout the world in general and in the State of Israel in particular by a sense of emergency with a high level of uncertainty regarding the characteristics of the virus and the expected scope of morbidity and mortality. Under these circumstances, the Institute for Biological Research acted with a sense of mission and national urgency and proposed to the political level a vaccine development project, the initiation of which was approved and budgeted.”
The statement went on to say that, while the development of the vaccine did not end with a commercialization process, the investment in the development of the vaccine upgraded the institute’s capabilities to deal with biological and chemical threats.

The Ministry of Defense added that it welcomes the audit and considers it an important tool for examining and adjusting work procedures. The Ministry has decided to transfer the responsibility for the response to the pandemic to the National Emergency Authority (NAE). The transfer was carried out in an orderly manner in 2022, including the “Healthy Surge” program.

The Israel Institute for Biological research (IIBR) was established in 1952 as a governmental research institute, founded by a group of scientists from the IDF Science Corps and from academic organizations. IIBR is located in the small city of Ness Ziona. Over the years the Institute has been engaged in R&D in the fields of biology, chemistry, and environmental sciences in order to provide the State of Israel with scientific response to chemical and biological threats.

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