FBI Investigating Theft of U.S. Biomedical Research by Scientists Linked to China

POLITICS & POLICY
Seal on the Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigation Building in Washington, D.C. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The FBI in conjunction with the National Institute of Health is investigating the theft of U.S. biomedical research by scientists with links to China, according to the New York Times.

71 institutions, including some of the top medical research facilities in the U.S., are looking into 180 individual cases of possible intellectual property theft. Almost all of the individuals under investigation are of Chinese descent, some of them naturalized American citizens.

So far, 24 of those cases have been referred to the NIH inspector general with evidence of criminal activity.

“It seems to be hitting every discipline in biomedical research,” said Dr. Michael Lauer, deputy director for extramural research at the N.I.H.

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Some of those under investigation have obtained Chinese patents for work owned by U.S. institutions and funded by the U.S. government, while others are suspected of duplicating U.S. research in secret laboratories in China. Redacted emails provided to the Times showed researchers apparently ferrying research items to China from the U.S.

“I should be able to bring the whole sets of primers to you (if I can figure out how to get a dozen tubes of frozen DNA onto an airplane),” read one email, referring to medical testing materials.

In January of this year, the U.S. Justice Department charged Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei with intellectual property theft and fraud.

Huawei poses a “dual threat to both our economic and national security, and the magnitude of these charges makes clear just how seriously the FBI takes this threat,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a press conference announcing the charges.

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