The FBI is investigating a former Jackson Laboratory scientist for allegedly failing to disclose his financial ties to Chinese research institutions in grant applications to the U.S. government.

The world-renowned laboratory is headquartered in Bar Harbor but has locations in other states and in China. An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court of Bangor was unsealed Tuesday and outlined the details of the investigation. That document identified Yijun Ruan as the Florine Deschenes Roux chair and director of genome sciences at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut.

Ruan has not been charged with any crimes, and he does not have an attorney listed in the docket related to the affidavit. A spokeswoman said Jackson Lab is fully cooperating with government agencies but could not comment on the ongoing investigation. She also confirmed Ruan is no longer employed there.

“When our scientists collaborate with the international community, it is done in an ethical and compliant manner,” Stephanie Wasco, chief communications officer, said in a written statement. “It is also our institutional responsibility, and the responsibility of every JAX employee to pursue science with integrity and in full compliance with all laws and regulations. These JAX policies include requirements that JAX scientists disclose all significant income from sources outside of JAX, all academic affiliations, all sources of support for scientific and academic activities outside of JAX, and any portions of scientific work done abroad for federally funded research. Any violation is taken with utmost seriousness.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maine said he could not comment on the investigation. The affidavit says Ruan is being investigated on allegations of wire fraud and concealing a material fact in a matter within the jurisdiction of the United States government. It does not include allegations that Ruan illegally diverted money or stole proprietary information.

According to the affidavit, Ruan received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from the Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China. He later received his Ph.D. in plant molecular biology from the University of Maryland, and he has worked for Jackson Lab since 2012. A 2013 news release that announced his hire at the Farmington lab said he is a U.S. citizen, and it said he “pioneered new techniques to sequence and map DNA to better understand cancer growth and stem cell properties.”

From 2014 to 2020, Ruan was the primary investigator on 17 lab projects that received more than $15 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, which requires applicants to disclose all foreign collaboration and foreign sources of research support. However, the affidavit says Ruan did not disclose that he also had paid positions at the Huazhong Agricultural University and the Shenzhen People’s Hospital during those years.

The affidavit cites emails provided by Jackson Labs and supported a search warrant for emails from Ruan’s Gmail account. The judge issued the warrant Dec. 30 but agreed to seal the documents until Feb. 28. The court record shows Google provided documents related to the account Jan. 13.

“I submit that probable cause exists to believe that Yijun Ruan has been affiliated with HZAU and SPH and has received, and possibly is continuing to receive, funding from these same entities during the time that he was also soliciting and receiving research grants from NIH,” Special Agent Christopher White wrote in the affidavit. “Ruan’s close ties to these Chinese entities could have made him ineligible to receive grants issued by NIH.”

The Department of Justice has made theft of trade secrets by China a priority and specifically targeted researchers and academics. Most recently, a former University of Florida professor and researcher was indicted on six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States. Federal prosecutors have said he fraudulently obtained $1.75 million in federal grant money from the NIH by concealing ties to the Chinese government.

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