Florida professor charged with receiving $1.75M in NIH funding while profiting in China


The Justice Department charged a former University of Florida professor with fraudulently obtaining $1.75 million in grant money from the National Institutes of Health while hiding his connections to the Chinese government and his efforts to profit in China.

Lin Yang, who had resided in Tampa but went back to China in 2019, was charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to the U.S. government in an indictment returned by a grand jury in December but unsealed Wednesday.

The Justice Department said Yang obtained a $1.75 million grant from NIH to develop an imaging informatics tool for muscles known as “MuscleMiner.” But at the same time, he set up a business in China known as “Deep Informatics” and promoted it in China as being based on research funded by the U.S. government. Yang was also accepted into China’s Thousand Talents Program through China’s Northwestern Polytechnic University. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute says that school is one of the “Seven Sons of National Defense” connected to the People’s Liberation Army.

DOJ investigators said Yang concealed these conflicts of interest from the United States and hid his foreign ties from the NIH and his university.

“According to the indictment, the defendant intentionally deceived both his employer and the federal government in order to obtain more than a million dollars in research funding,” John Demers, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s national security division, said Wednesday. “Rather than being open about his ties to the People’s Republic of China, the defendant chose to conceal them, in the process advancing both the Chinese government’s strategic goals and his own financial interests.”

The newly unsealed indictment said Yang worked as an associate professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida between 2014 and 2019 and committed wire fraud in June 2016, July 2016, June 2017, August 2017, June 2018, and September 2018. It described the “talent plan” that Yang joined as a Chinese government effort “to encourage the transfer of original ideas, technology, and intellectual property from foreign institutions, such as American universities, to PRC institutions.”

Demers said in December that more than 1,000 researchers tied to China’s military left the U.S. last year following a crackdown, and the U.S. has arrested and charged a host of researchers and scientists for concealing their China ties. The Justice Department said in November that in the past year, it had also brought fraud, false statements, tax, smuggling, and other charges against 10 academics working at U.S. research facilities.

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