INSIDER THREAT: University Researcher Charged with Economic Espionage for China

Huajun zhao economic espionage wisconsin

It never ends. Each time you read one of these cases, they all end up having one country in common: China.

Medical College of Wisconsin researcher charged with economic espionage; Feds allege anti-cancer compound was stolen for China (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)

A researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin has been charged with stealing a possible cancer-fighting compound and research data that led to its development, all to benefit a Chinese university.

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.

Zhao was arrested Saturday and held without bail over the weekend pending a detention hearing in Milwaukee federal court on Monday, when he was ordered detained until trial. . . .

. . . . 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.

Zhao was placed on administrative suspension and ordered to turn in all his access badges for the Medical College of Wisconsin after the Feb. 27 interview, according to the complaint.

On March 1, Zhao met with Anderson, college security and the FBI to go over his computer, hard drive and flash drive, where 384 items related to Anderson’s C-25 research were discovered and deleted.

He also had some research from another professor in the Hematology/Oncology department, without permission.

Among Zhao’s paperwork, investigators found more C-25 research and a grant application, written in Mandarin, claiming he had discovered the compound and seeking more Chinese funding to continue research.

Anderson observed the application was identical to one he had submitted years earlier, in English.

During the same March 1 review, college security informed the FBI that after his suspension on Feb. 27, Zhao had remotely accessed the Medical College servers and deleted Anderson’s raw data from the C-25 research, information the college was later able to restore.

Zhao denied stealing any research or deleting data, and again said he did not understand the questions, though his co-workers told investigators Zhao spoke excellent English and had lived in the United States several years.

Finally, on Thursday, agents served a search warrant at Zhao’s apartment and recovered a receipt for a package he sent to his wife in China on Feb. 28, the day after he was suspended from the Medical College.

They also found that Zhao had purchased, on Feb. 3 and Feb. 17, identical airline tickets to China from Chicago for April 2. . . . (read all)


Zhoa’s LinkedIn profile

His LinkedIn groups and associations he belonged to:

  • AAPS Clinical Pharmacology & Translational Research (CPTR) Section
  • ACPU (Early Phase Clinical Research Professionals)
  • American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
  • American College of Clinical Pharmacology
  • CSSA-Chinese Student and Scholar Associations-All in 全球中国学生学者联谊会
  • Cancer Targets & Therapeutics Society
  • China Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Association
  • China Job Openings, Career and Opportunities 中國招聘平台、外企高薪職位
  • Clinical Research, Drugs and Alerts
  • Hangzhou Expat Community( HEC)
  • Oncology Jobs In Biotech and Pharmaceuticals
  • Pharmaceutical Clinical Recruitment
  • Pharmaceutical Jobs Biotech Life Sciences & Medical Devices
  • Pharmacology Professionals
  • Pharmacology and Physiology
  • Rx&D – Biopharmaceutical, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Research and Development
  • Singapore Jobs & Singaporean Business Network.
  • World Pharmacologists Society


Threats are Out There