The globally-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has ousted three Chinese researchers in what it says is a response to US government concerns about data security and intellectual property loss.
The three senior researchers quit after having termination proceedings started against them following investigations by the funding body the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to a report in Science.
The un-named scientists, all ethnic Chinese, were alleged to have committed potentially serious violations of NIH rules on intellectual property theft, confidentiality of peer review, and disclosure of foreign ties.
“Like many institutions across the country, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has been impacted [by the NIH reports],” a statement from MD Andersen said.
“The institution has responded to requests from the NIH regarding a variety of threats, including data security and intellectual property loss. It’s important to note that no patient information was accessed or shared,” it said.
According to media reports, the three scientists had been under investigation by the FBI, including having their emails searched and being put under video surveillance. Scientists at at least two other institutions are also investigation, the reports said.
The FBI has previously said it would be targeting Chinese state-sponsored intellectual property theft, estimating that it had cost the U.S. as much as $600 billion annually, and noting that two Chinese scientists had been prosecuted in 2018 for stealing cancer therapy intellectual property from GlaxoSmithKline.
However the removal of the three scientists has led to accusations of racism.
A Chinese-American lobby group Committee of 100 said ethnic Chinese scientists in the US were being targeted as “potential traitors, spies, and agents of foreign influence”.
“In scientific, business, political, academic and government circles, Chinese Americans are reporting being subject to greater scrutiny and discriminatory treatment in their work and daily lives. Racial profiling is wrong and un-American in our nation of democracy. It is imperative that those who are committed to the civil rights of all Americans disavow this kind of broad-brush racial stereotyping and fear-mongering,” the group said.