Senior Harvard scientist charged over Chinese funding

Charles M. Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, and a leader in the field of nanoscale electronics, was “one of three Boston-area scientists accused on Tuesday of working on behalf of China,” reports the New York Times (porous paywall).

Lieber was arrested and “charged on Tuesday with making false statements about money he had received from a Chinese government-run program, part of a broad-ranging F.B.I. effort to root out theft of biomedical research from American laboratories. [Lieber’s] case involves work with the Thousand Talents Program, a state-run program that seeks to draw talent educated in other countries.”

Lieber “stands out among the accused scientists, because he is neither Chinese nor of Chinese descent,” although he “has made no secret of his work with Chinese partners, joining five senior Chinese officials and scientists in 2013 to found the WUT-Harvard Joint Nano Key Laboratory at the Wuhan University of Technology.”

Federal prosecutors said that Lieber had “made false representation to questions about his participation” in that program and misrepresented his involvement in Thousand Talents.

“Lieber was paid up to $50,000 per month in salary and $150,000 per year in living expenses by Wuhan University of Technology [and] awarded more than $1.5 million by the university and the Chinese government to build a laboratory in Wuhan,” according to charging documents.

The other two people charged are “Zaosong Zheng…a Harvard-affiliated cancer researcher who prosecutors said was caught with 21 vials of cells stolen from a laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital,” and “Yanqing Ye…who was charged with visa fraud, making false statements, acting as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy.”

—Jeremy Goldkorn