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U.S. targeting Chinese cancer researchers

The Trump administration's "economic cold war" with China has spread to the search for cancer cures, as the administration tries to rid U.S. research institutions of Chinese influence, Bloomberg reports.

The impact: "Chinese people in America, including U.S. citizens, are now targeted for FBI surveillance," Bloomberg's Peter Waldman writes.

What it means: "The aim is to stanch China's well-documented and costly theft of U.S. innovation and know-how. The collateral effect, however, is to stymie basic science, the foundational research that underlies new medical treatments," Waldman adds.

Details: Cancer researcher Xifeng Wu, an American citizen, resigned in January from a top position at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, after a months-long investigation into her professional ties to China.

  • The investigation was led by the National Institutes of Health and the FBI. Three other Chinese-American scientists also recently left MD Anderson.
  • An NIH official said Wu and 4 other scientists had violated confidentiality requirements and didn't disclose paid work in China.

Yes, but: Cancer research has become increasingly globalized, and U.S.-China collaborations have produced meaningful work.

  • "Ways of working that have long been encouraged by the NIH and many research institutions ... are now quasi-criminalized," Waldman writes.

What they're saying: "Even something that is in the fundamental research space, that’s absolutely not classified, has an intrinsic value," Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director of the NIH, told Bloomberg.

  • "This pre-patented material is the antecedent to creating intellectual property. In essence, what you’re doing is stealing other people's ideas."

Go deeper: For Trump, 2020 is a China trade war election