Feds: Chinese Harvard Med Student Caught Smuggling Research Out of Country

The Associated Press
Elise Amendola/AP

A Harvard University medical student from China is facing federal charges after allegedly stealing cancer research materials from a lab at a Boston hospital and attempting to smuggle it out of the United States.

U.S. authorities say that the 29-year-old Chinese student, Zaosong Zheng, stole cancer research materials from his lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and then attempted to board a plane bound for China, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The report added that Zheng — who was arrested last month at Boston Logan International Airport on a charge of making false statements and is being held without bail — appeared on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Boston.

Magistrate Judge David Hennessy has ruled that evidence suggests Zheng had tried to smuggle vials of research material in a sock, which he packed in his suitcase before attempting to fly to China.

According to court documents, the student told authorities that some of the vials contained a colleague’s work, which Zheng had replicated without the lab’s authorization or knowledge. The FBI said that the Chinese student was possibly acting on behalf of the Chinese government, according to the AP.

The report added that Zheng had received a visa sponsored by Harvard University to study in the U.S. last year.

According to the Boston Globe, Harvard officials say that Zheng’s visa has been revoked, and that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center — a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital — has fired the student from his job.

“We are deeply proud of the breadth and depth of our research programs,” said Beth Israel spokesperson Jennifer Kritz to the Boston Globe. “Any efforts to compromise research undermine the hard work of our faculty and staff to advance patient care.”

According to AP, the investigation is ongoing and prosecutors say that Zheng may face additional charges.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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