Columbus, OH–Former Ohio woman Li Chen, 46, pleaded guilty today via video conference in U.S. District Court today to conspiring to steal scientific trade secrets and conspiring to commit wire fraud concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions.
Chen admitted to stealing scientific trade secrets related to exosomes and exosome isolation from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute for her own personal financial gain.
Chen and her husband, alleged co-conspirator Yu Zhou, 49, worked in separate medical research labs at the Research Institute for 10 years each (Zhou from 2007 until 2017 and Chen from 2008 until 2018). They are charged with conspiring to steal at least five trade secrets related to exosome research from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Exosomes play a key role in the research, identification and treatment of a range of medical conditions, including necrotizing enterocolitis (a condition found in premature babies), liver fibrosis and liver cancer.
According to her plea agreement, Chen conspired to steal and then monetize one of the trade secrets by creating and selling exosome “isolation kits.” Chen admitted to starting a company in China to sell the kits. Chen received benefits from the Chinese government, including the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Chen also applied to multiple Chinese government talent plans, a method used by China to transfer foreign research and technology to the Chinese government.
As part of her plea, Chen has agreed to forfeit approximately $1.4 million, 500,000 shares of common stock of Avalon GloboCare Corp. and 400 shares of common stock of GenExosome Technologies Inc.
Chen and Zhou were arrested in California in July 2019 and their case was unsealed in August 2019 when they appeared in federal court in Columbus.