Researcher Pleads Guilty To Selling OH Hospital ‘Trade Secrets’ To China’s Gov.

Children’s National Hospital

Li Chen pleaded guilty Thursday before a U.S. District Court to a conspiracy to steal information from a children’s hospital in Ohio and sell it to China, the Justice Department announced Thursday. Chen, who was a respected and trusted researcher at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute in Columbus, admitted to stealing and selling exosomes and exosome isolation from the facility.

“Once again we see the People’s Republic of China (PRC) facilitating the theft of our nation’s ingenuity and hard work as part of their quest to rob, replicate and replace any product they don’t have the ability to develop themselves,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. 

Chen said she established a company in China to sell the exomes that play key roles in treating medical conditions common in premature babies and patients with liver issues, the DOJ said. Ultimately, Chen sold the information to the Chinese government and was rewarded by China’s State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, according to the DOJ.

Demers added, “Far from being an isolated incident, we see the PRC implicated in around 60 percent of all trade secret theft cases.  This continued economic belligerence runs contrary to the values and norms that facilitate the success of our industries and countering it remains among our highest priorities.”

Chen’s husband, Yu Zhou, 49, was also roped into the scheme, working in the same research center. The couple was arrested in July 2019, the DOJ press release stated. Together, the couple stole “at least five trade secrets,” according to the Justice Department.

Chen agreed as part of her plea agreement to relinquish over $1 million, 500,000 stock shares of Avalon GloboCare Corp., and 400 shares of stock in GenExosome Technologies Inc., DOJ said.