Chi­nese re­searcher — and for­mer 'fugi­tive' — re­turns home af­ter DOJ moves to drop a spate of cas­es

A year ago, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s crack­down on aca­d­e­m­ic and es­pi­onage reached a fever pitch as the US abrupt­ly or­dered Chi­na to shut down its Hous­ton con­sulate and, on the same day, an­nounced it had charged four vis­it­ing Chi­nese re­searchers for con­ceal­ing their ties to the Chi­nese mil­i­tary in visa ap­pli­ca­tions.

Over the past few days, though, the De­part­ment of Jus­tice has moved to drop those cas­es.

Juan Tang

“Re­cent de­vel­op­ments in a hand­ful of cas­es in­volv­ing de­fen­dants with al­leged, undis­closed ties to the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army of the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of Chi­na have prompt­ed the de­part­ment to re-eval­u­ate these pros­e­cu­tions,” Wyn Horn­buck­le, a spokesman, told the New York Times with­out elab­o­rat­ing on the specifics. “We have de­ter­mined that it is now in the in­ter­est of jus­tice to dis­miss them.”

But he em­pha­sized that the mo­tions sim­ply re­flect­ed the mer­its of these in­di­vid­ual cas­es, not the de­part­ment’s stance on stop­ping IP theft by Chi­na — a clear pri­or­i­ty for the for­mer pres­i­dent.

Rather, it “con­tin­ues to place a very high pri­or­i­ty on coun­ter­ing the threat posed to Amer­i­can re­search se­cu­ri­ty and aca­d­e­m­ic in­tegri­ty by the PRC gov­ern­ment’s agen­da and poli­cies.”

Juan Tang was the first de­fen­dant to have her case dis­missed. A for­mer can­cer re­searcher at the ra­di­a­tion on­col­o­gy de­part­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego, she first en­tered the US in De­cem­ber 2019. Her case drew spe­cial at­ten­tion af­ter the FBI called her a “fugi­tive of jus­tice be­ing har­bored” at the Chi­nese con­sulate in San Fran­cis­co.

She had been sched­uled to go to tri­al on Mon­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the Sacra­men­to Bee, Tang had been in cus­tody at a Bay Area lawyer’s home with a GPS an­kle bracelet fol­low­ing a pe­ri­od in the Sacra­men­to Coun­ty Main Jail. She got on a flight Fri­day morn­ing to re­turn to her moth­er, hus­band and 9-year-old daugh­ter in Chi­na.

Judges had de­ter­mined in re­cent weeks that FBI agents had not in­formed her about her rights to not in­crim­i­nate her­self and al­ready dis­missed parts of her case, along with an­oth­er re­searcher, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­port­ed. In court fil­ings, pros­e­cu­tors not­ed they would no longer pur­sue visa fraud and oth­er charges.

On top of that, the de­part­ment has con­clud­ed that while await­ing tri­al, the de­fen­dants had al­ready been im­pris­oned or oth­er­wise con­strained for a year — the max­i­mum sen­tence they would face, ac­cord­ing to the Times.

It’s filed mo­tions to dis­miss cas­es against four oth­er sci­en­tists, three of whom were charged on the same day as Tang: Xin Wang (who was at UCSF), Chen Song (neu­rol­o­gist at was at Stan­ford) and Kaikai Zhao (grad­u­ate stu­dent in ma­chine learn­ing and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence).

The last, Lei Guan, was ar­rest­ed lat­er af­ter be­ing seen de­stroy­ing a hard dri­ve. At the time, Guan — who had spent two years at UCLA — was be­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ed for pos­si­bly trans­fer­ring sen­si­tive US soft­ware or tech­ni­cal da­ta to Chi­na’s Na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ty of De­fense Tech­nol­o­gy.

The de­ci­sion to scru­ti­nize re­searchers from Chi­na for their mil­i­tary ties had marked an un­usu­al turn in a na­tion­wide cam­paign to stem for­eign in­flu­ence in US bio­med­ical re­search — one that had in­volved the NIH and swept up some pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tions like MD An­der­son, Emory and Mof­fitt.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Ex­elix­is pulls a sur­prise win in thy­roid can­cer just days ahead of fi­nal Cabome­tyx read­out

Exelixis added a thyroid cancer indication to its super-seller Cabometyx’s label on Friday — months before the FDA was expected to make a decision, and days before the company was set to unveil the final data at #ESMO21.

At a median follow-up of 10.1 months, differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with Cabometyx (cabozantinib) lived a median of 11 months without their disease worsening, compared to just 1.9 months for patients given a placebo, Exelixis said on Monday.

Den­mark's Gubra to col­lab­o­rate with Bay­er on pep­tides; Sam­sung and Bio­gen re­ceive FDA ap­proval for Lu­cen­tis biosim­i­lar

Danish biotech Gubra announced a research collaboration and license agreement with Bayer to develop peptide therapeutics to treat cardiorenal diseases. The collaboration will utilize Gubra’s peptide drug discovery platform to identify potential candidates.

This is not the first time Gubra has partnered with a company on peptide therapeutics — they partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim back in 2017 to create peptide therapeutics to treat obesity.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.

Ex-My­lan em­ploy­ee pleads guilty to in­sid­er trad­ing, il­le­gal­ly deal­ing on FDA ap­provals, earn­ings and Up­john merg­er

A former Mylan IT executive pleaded guilty Friday to an insider trading scheme where he bought and sold stock options on another executive’s advice.

Prosecutors secured the plea from Dayakar Mallu, Mylan’s former VP of global operations information technology, after uncovering the plan. Mallu collaborated with an unnamed “senior manager,” the SEC said, to trade options ahead of Mylan public announcements regarding FDA approvals, revenue reports and its merger with the Pfizer generics subsidiary Upjohn. The two subsequently shared profits.

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