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Under Scrutiny, a Resignation

The founder of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, has resigned following revelations of financial conflicts of interest.

Kang Zhang, an eye doctor at UCSD, resigned July 4 after an investigation into his failures to disclose business interests in China, according to inewsource, a nonprofit investigative journalism outfit based in San Diego. The report also said he is part of the Chinese government's Thousand Talents Program, which has come under scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Zhang is the founder and primary shareholder of a publicly traded Chinese biotechnology company that specializes in the same work he performed at the University of California San Diego," inewsource reporters Brad Racino and Jill Castellano wrote. "He has not disclosed this and his other Chinese pharmaceutical businesses to the US government or UCSD on forms required by university policy and federal regulations. Our reporting has not uncovered any accusation that Zhang illegally took intellectual property abroad."

An earlier report, also from inewsource, found that Zhang has a history of violating standards of research with human subjects. Zhang allegedly "enrolled people he shouldn't have for his medical trials, failed to document what happened to 25 units of a study drug, performed HIV tests on participants without their permission, kept poor records on his patients, and didn't complete necessary ethics training for a stem cell study."

The Scientist noted that Zhang's exit "comes at a time when tensions between the US and international scientists are mounting." The FBI has stated China is incentivizing scientists to steal intellectual property, and the National Institutes of Health has sent about 180 letters to research institutions concerning potential misconduct in disclosing conflicts of interest. Those letters spurred firings of several Chinese or Chinese-American researchers.