Here's a strange case worth keeping an eye on. Via Deborah Blum's Twitter feed we have this report of a researcher in Wisconsin being charged with economic espionage - specifically, investigational oncology.
Huajun Zhao, 42, faces a single count of economic espionage, according to a federal criminal complaint, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. . .
. . .According to the complaint, Zhao worked as an associate researcher at the college, assisting professor Marshall Anderson by conducting experiments in pharmacology.
On Feb. 22, Anderson set down three pill bottle-size containers of a cancer research compound called C-25, and later noticed they were missing from his desk. After searching extensively for the bottles, he reported them lost or stolen on Feb. 26.
The next day, security video showed Zhao entering Anderson's office on Feb. 22, and leaving shortly after. No one else was seen entering the office on the videos. Security officials questioned Zhao, who didn't admit or deny taking the compound, but said he couldn't understand the questions, and that, regardless, everything would be resolved in 10 days.
The public safety manager of the college, Jessica Luedtke, contacted the FBI. She said Zhao had been disciplined months earlier for putting lab data on his personal computer. The college staff also discovered that on a professional researcher's website, Zhao claimed to have discovered a cancer-fighting compound that he wanted to bring back to China, where he had been from December till mid-February.
Since his return, his résumé lists him as an assistant professor at Zhejiang University in China.
There's more evidence presented in the article. The professor involved works on mitochondrial apoptosis and on Nf-kappaB inhibitors, but I've been unable to find any publications on the "C-25" compound itself. None of Prof. Anderson's recent papers seem to have an "H. Zhou" or anything similar in the list of co-authors, so that doesn't narrow things down, either.
This is quite odd. People do indeed steal compounds by a variety of means, but it doesn't always work out very well. But those examples involve taking things from industrial labs - stealing an academic compound like this is presumably being done to advance one's own career, rather than being a path to direct wealth. According to the report, a grant application was found on Zhou's computer, claiming that he had discovered this compound and proposing funding for more studies. It does make you wonder what it is, and what sort of tenure-achieving, publication-spinning, grant-renewing powers it has. Or perhaps it really does have promising oncology activity, and Zhou pictured himself getting into the business? More details as they become available. . .