Yu Zhou and his wife, Li Chen, were both found guilty of conspiring to sell trade secrets to the Chinese government.
Dublin, Ohio, resident, Yu Zhou, 50, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this month to charges related to “conspiring to steal exosome-related trade secrets concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions.” Zhou was convicted of attempting to commit wire fraud after been found guilty of planning to steal trade secrets from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute to sell them to China. Zhou and his wife, Li Chen, 47, both worked in separate medical research labs at the Research Institute for a decade. The couple tried to pilfer trade secrets from the Children’s Hospital for their own financial gain by creating exosome “isolation kits” for sale overseas.
“Today’s plea underscores the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting American research and trade secrets from those incentivized to steal them by Chinese Government programs,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “China’s endemic efforts to rob, replicate and replace products that they do not have the ability to develop themselves will not go unchecked, and those who seek to profit from the theft of trade secrets will be held accountable.”
“The Chinese government has created a large-scale, sophisticated system to steal American ingenuity,” U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers added. “We hope this conviction demonstrates that we will fight this system.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman also stated, “Zhou and his wife have both accepted responsibility for establishing a company in China to personally profit from the cutting-edge work done at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The FBI will continue to work closely with our partners to protect the innovations that have made America a global leader.”
The couple revealed they had established a business in China to sell the kits in exchange for monetary payments from the Chinese government, including the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. They were arrested in California in July 2019, and Chen also pleaded guilty this year.
“Li Chen was a trusted researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, conducting cutting-edge U.S. government-funded research,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman. “With her guilty plea, she admits that she abused this trust to establish a company in China for her own financial gain. The FBI is committed to working closely with partners such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital to protect the innovations that make America a world leader in science and technology.”
“The theft of trade secrets is a growing threat that severely impacts our economy and our national security,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Todd Wickerham. Should these secrets fall into the wrong hands, there could be dire consequences.
Both defendants will forfeit any gains from the illegal operation, including an estimated $1.4 million, 500,000 shares of Avalon GloboCare Corp. stock and 400 shares GenExosome Technologies, Inc. stock.