Charles Lieber (Charles Krupa, AP)

Har­vard's Charles Lieber in­dict­ed for ly­ing to the feds, bring­ing US re­searcher­s' Chi­na ties back to the spot­light

Five months af­ter his shock­ing ar­rest, Charles Lieber has been in­dict­ed by a fed­er­al grand ju­ry for ly­ing to au­thor­i­ties about his in­volve­ment in Chi­na’s Thou­sand Tal­ents Pro­gram.

The 61-year-old sci­en­tist — who chaired Har­vard’s chem­istry de­part­ment and led a lab spe­cial­iz­ing in nanoscience be­fore he was ar­rest­ed and placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave in late Jan­u­ary — is fac­ing two counts of mak­ing false state­ments. He will be ar­raigned in fed­er­al court at a lat­er date, and is ex­pect­ed to con­test the charges.

While Lieber was not the first Amer­i­can sci­en­tist not of Chi­nese eth­nic­i­ty to be swept up in the FBI’s probe in­to aca­d­e­m­ic es­pi­onage, his case stood out be­cause of his high pro­file and the sever­i­ty of the po­ten­tial con­se­quences. From a DOJ re­lease:

The charge of mak­ing false state­ments pro­vides for a sen­tence of up to five years in prison, three years of su­per­vised re­lease and a fine of $250,000.

Amid some re­newed ten­sion in US-Chi­na re­la­tions — with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump point­ing fin­gers at Chi­na’s ini­tial han­dling of the coro­n­avirus out­break, and Xi Jin­ping es­sen­tial­ly dar­ing the US by im­pos­ing a na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty law on Hong Kong — Amer­i­can of­fi­cials are said to be con­sid­er­ing fur­ther re­stric­tions on the en­try of Chi­nese stu­dents as re­tal­i­a­tion. The re­ports sparked new de­bates around the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­cu­sa­tions that Chi­na has been steal­ing sci­en­tif­ic se­crets by in­fil­trat­ing top or­ga­ni­za­tions. With­in the bio­med­ical en­ter­prise, aca­d­e­m­ic es­pi­onage is an ac­knowl­edged prob­lem, al­though sci­en­tists are di­vid­ed on what counts as spy­ing, how per­va­sive it is and whether the gov­ern­ment is throw­ing out the ba­by with the bath wa­ter.

As an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Mof­fitt Can­cer Cen­ter high­light­ed, col­lab­o­rat­ing with or even re­ceiv­ing funds from Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties aren’t an of­fense in the gov­ern­ment and re­search in­sti­tu­tions’ eyes. It on­ly be­comes an is­sue when re­searchers hide their af­fil­i­a­tion — time com­mit­ment as well as pay­ments — even when no se­crets are ap­par­ent­ly di­vulged.

At Mof­fitt, the fail­ure to re­port cost six top of­fi­cials their job, in­clud­ing its for­mer CEO and ac­claimed hema­tol­o­gist Alan List.

Lieber’s ties to Chi­na al­leged­ly be­gan in 2011 when he, “un­be­knownst to Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty,” be­came a strate­gic sci­en­tist at Wuhan Uni­ver­si­ty of Tech­nol­o­gy. For the next three years, he would sign on­to the Thou­sand Tal­ents Plan, which is de­signed to re­cruit top brains like him­self.

Un­der that con­tract, the DOJ said he was paid a salary of $50,000 per month, liv­ing ex­pens­es of up to ap­prox­i­mate­ly $158,000 USD, and award­ed more than $1.5 mil­lion to es­tab­lish a re­search lab at the uni­ver­si­ty. In re­turn, he al­leged­ly agreed to no less than nine months of work per year.

All of that came in on top of the $15 mil­lion in grants Lieber has re­ceived from the NIH over the years.

But when the feds came knock­ing in April 2018, he told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he was nev­er asked to par­tic­i­pate in Thou­sand Tal­ents, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. Har­vard, al­leged­ly tak­ing him by his word, al­so told the NIH he had no for­mal as­so­ci­a­tion with WUT af­ter 2012 and that the Wuhan in­sti­tu­tion was false­ly ex­ag­ger­at­ing his role there.

His lawyer, Marc Mukasey, told the Har­vard Crim­son that the gov­ern­ment has it wrong, and that Lieber is the vic­tim, not the per­pe­tra­tor.

“Pro­fes­sor Lieber has ded­i­cat­ed his life to sci­ence and to his stu­dents,” Mukasey wrote. “Not mon­ey, not fame, just his sci­ence and his stu­dents. […] “When jus­tice is done, Char­lie’s good name will be re­stored and the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty again will be able to ben­e­fit from his in­tel­lect and pas­sion.”

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: Bris­tol My­er­s' Kris­ten Hege on cell ther­a­py, can­cer pa­tients and men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

Kristen Hege leads Bristol Myers Squibb’s early oncology discovery program carrying on from the same work at Celgene, which was acquired by BMS in 2019. She’s known for her early work in CAR-T, having pioneered the first CAR-T cell trial for solid tumors more than 25 years ago.

However, the eminent physician-scientist is more than just a drug developer mastermind. She’s also a practicing physician, mother to two young women, an avid backpacker and intersecting all those interests — a champion of young women and people of color in STEM and life sciences.

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Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

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Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion lays ground­work to un­wind Il­lu­mi­na's $7B+ Grail merg­er

The European Commission has recommended steps that — though not yet final — would require Illumina to “swiftly” unwind its controversial $7.1 billion Grail buyout.

The Commission delivered a “statement of objections” on Monday, detailing the process Illumina would need to take in divesting Grail, its blood testing spinout launched in 2016. Illumina re-acquired Grail back in August, despite criticism from both the FTC and EU.

US sup­ports ex­ten­sion for Covid-19 IP waiv­er de­ci­sion

After much debate, the US government is now calling for a deadline extension to discuss a controversial potential IP waiver for Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.

Over the last five months, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said it has consulted with members of Congress, public health advocates, organized labor groups, academics, think tanks, companies and trade associations on the WTO’s recent TRIPS agreement, which established a 5-year waiver of certain patent requirements on Covid-19 vaccines.

Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Phar­mas lay off Twit­ter ads for an­oth­er week; WPP un­cov­ers LGBTQ+ mar­ket­ing find­ings

When Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk tweeted this weekend, “Just a note to thank advertisers for returning to Twitter,” he likely wasn’t talking about big pharma companies. The vast majority of the top spending pharma advertisers had not returned last week, according to updated tracking data Pathmatic for Endpoints News.

Only three pharma advertisers spent any money at all, which is about the same as the past several weeks. AstraZeneca rejoined the active advertiser list, although at $700 spent hardly worth a personal Musk expression of gratitude. GSK remained active with $3,500 spent ad much lower than its previous spending, according to the Pathmatics data. Only Bayer spent any significant amount in advertising, with $244,000 spent last week, but that’s a considerable drop from almost $500,000 spent on OTC, prescription and corporate Twitter ads in each of the previous two weeks.

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Bob Duggan, Summit Therapeutics co-CEO

Bounc­ing from ma­jor set­back, Sum­mit hands out $500M cash for can­cer drug — thanks to a loan from bil­lion­aire CEO

After hitting a dead end with Summit Therapeutics’ lead program, Bob Duggan has found the drug that he believes will usher into a compelling second act. So compelling, in fact, that it involves $500 million cash — and he’s taking money out of his own pocket to fund the deal.

Striking a partnership with Akeso Therapeutics out of China, Summit is bringing in a bispecific antibody that blocks both PD-1 and VEGF called ivonescimab. Akeso, which has a PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific approved in China, has already taken ivonescimab into multiple clinical trials, including a Phase III in lung cancer.

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Jay Lichter, Arialys Therapeutics CEO (Avalon Ventures)

Scoop: Aval­on, MPM back new CNS biotech with sci­en­tif­ic chops from Astel­las

A preclinical central nervous system biotech is in the works in La Jolla, CA, and the drug developer has reeled in capital from a syndicate of investors, Endpoints News has learned.

Arialys Therapeutics filed incorporation documents in the Golden State last December and applied its name for trademark protection with the US Patent and Trademark Office the week prior to that. Paperwork with the SEC also outlines plans to offer up equity in exchange for $55 million.

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