3 February 2021
Li Chen, 47, admitted in her guilty plea in July 2020 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 was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Chen and her husband, co-conspirator Yu Zhou, 50, worked in separate medical research labs at the Research Institute for 10 years each. They pleaded guilty to 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.
Chen conspired to use stolen secrets to create and sell exosome “isolation kits.” To this end she started a company in China.
Chen received benefits from the Chinese government, including the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. She also applied to multiple Chinese government talent plans, a method used by China to transfer foreign research and technology to the Chinese government.
Chen will forfeit approximately $1.25 million, 500,000 shares of common stock of Avalon GloboCare Corp. and 400 shares of common stock of GenExosome Technologies Inc. As part of her sentence, she was ordered to pay $2.6 million in restitution.
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. Zhou has also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Source: Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs.