Yijun Ruan, a Chinese-born expert in genetic research, is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly concealing his inclusion in the Chinese Communist Party‘s “Thousand Talents Program” when he applied for a U.S. government research grant.
The Bangor Daily News (Maine) cited FBI documents filed with the court last December, saying that Yijun Ruan, formerly an employee of the U.S. Jackson Laboratory in Connecticut, served as principal investigator on 17 research projects for seven years from 2014 to 2020, applying for a total of $1.5 million ($117 million) from the National Institutes of health (NIH), 5 million (approximately HK$117 million) in scientific research funding from the NIH.
NIH is responsible for approving biomedical research projects in the United States with various types of project funding.
The FBI has requested access to Ruan’s emails, but no charges have been filed against him yet.
Born in China, Ruan received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan in the 1980s before moving to the University of Maryland, where he earned a Ph.D. in plant molecular biology; he served as senior subject leader and vice president of the Genomics Institute of Singapore and led a research group that won Singapore’s National Science and Technology Award.
In 2012, Yijun Nguyen moved from Singapore to become a professor and director of the Jackson Laboratory in the US, and in 2013 became a professor in the Department of Genetics and Genomics at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where he is the founder of 3D genomics worldwide.
According to information on China’s domestic internet, Yijun was selected for the Thousand Talents Program, the Communist Party’s overseas talent program, in 2012, and has since traveled to China frequently to attend academic seminars and lectures.
According to the FBI indictment, Ruan received a letter of appointment from ZNU while he was working at the Genome Institute of Singapore under the “Thousand Talents Program,” which runs through 2018.
ZNIR provided him with a $150,000 start-up grant, a monthly salary of $15,000 to be credited to his salary card, and 150 square meters of on-campus housing.
The Thousand Talents Program is one of the Communist Party’s policies to bring in “high-level overseas talents” with the aim of acquiring advanced technology from abroad. Since 2018, a number of overseas scholars recruited into the Thousand Talents Program, especially those of Chinese descent, have been the subject of investigations or prosecutions after the U.S. government began to take the issue of Chinese intellectual property theft from the United States seriously.
In September 2018, it was announced that the FBI has made the Thousand Talents Program scholars the focus of its investigation, one by one, and the Thousand Talents Program is threatened to be reduced to a “prison program.
According to the FBI’s report, the current charges against the offending Thousand Talents Program experts include: concealing collaborative relationships with foreign institutions; setting up “shadow labs” in China to do the same work as U.S. government-funded research; and double income, i.e., receiving full salaries from both the U.S. and China, and leaking unpublished papers of U.S. university researchers to Chinese researchers. These aspects are ethical allegations, as well as allegations of violations of the law, including the theft of patented technology related to U.S. military rockets; and the export of technology with dual-use value.
Soon after, the “Thousand Talents Program” was quickly removed or hidden from the Chinese domestic web, but the CCP continued to promote the program in private.
An official document circulating on the Chinese Internet in 2018, signed by the “Thousand Talents Program Youth Program Evaluation Working Group” and stamped by a representative of China’s National Natural Science Foundation, shows the group listing precautions, saying, “Based on the safety and security of overseas talents, please do not use emails during the notification interview and defense process. defense process do not use emails, but should use telephone and fax to notify in the name of inviting back to China to participate in academic conferences, forums, etc.” and requires, “The words ‘Thousand Talents Program’ do not appear in the textual notification.”
The May 2020 issue of Dovetail, an overseas pro-communist Chinese media outlet, said that the CCP’s low-profile handling of the Thousand Talents Program is not a sign that it is no longer bringing in “high-level overseas talents”; it is more likely that it is the same as the “Made in China It is more likely that, like “Made in China 2025”, what should be done will still be done, only that it is not mentioned or less mentioned.
Ruan Yijun’s profile
The following is a detailed profile of Yijun Ruan from a Chinese domestic network.
Professor and Chair of the Department of Genomic Sciences at the University of Connecticut
Director of Genetics and Computational Biology, Jackson Laboratory, Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, University of Connecticut Health Center, awarded by Florine Roux
- Leadership Role in Academic Status
Professor of Genetics and Genomics at the University of Connecticut, Director of the Genomics Division of the Jackson Laboratory, and founder of 3D genomics worldwide. He has developed the world’s most advanced genomics research method system, PET system, and the advanced technology platform of chromatin 3D topology, ChIA-PET technology platform.
From 2001-2015, he has received more than $27 million in research funding, including major research projects such as US NIH and DOD, and US ENCODE (Genome Encyclopedia) project. Published more than 100 articles, including Nature (7), Science (4), Cell (5), Nature Genetics (6), Nature Medicine (2), Nature Method (3), PNAS (2), PLoS Biology (1), and Genome Research (5 articles), etc., with impact factors greater than 600. He is an editorial board member and reviewer of several academic journals, including Nature Genetics, Cell Reports, etc. He has been invited to host several international academic conferences (2012 invited to review 3D genomics for Science).
- Research Areas
His current main research interests are the topology of human genomics and the dynamic functional changes of all DNA regulatory elements.
1990-1994 Ph.D. in Plant Molecular Biology, University of Maryland, Maryland, USA
1982-1985 M.S. in Microbiology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China
1978-1982 B.S. in Microbiology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China
- Career history
2015 – Present Chair of Genetics and Computational Biology, Jackson Laboratory, Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, University of Connecticut Health Center, awarded by Florine Roux
2013 – Present Professor, Department of Genetics and Genomics, University of Connecticut Health Center
2012 – Present Professor and Director of the Jackson Laboratory, University of Connecticut
2006-2012 Professor, National University of Singapore
2003-2012 Associate Director of Genomic Technologies, Genome Institute of Singapore
2002-2012 Senior Group Leader, Genomic Technologies and Biology, Genome Institute of Singapore
1999-2002 Director of Core Genomics and Applications, Vacaville, California, USA, a large biological company
1996-1999 Senior Scientist, Genomic Technologies, Monsanto, Missouri, USA
1995-1996 Postdoctoral Fellow, Gene Discovery and Gene Expression, Monsanto, Missouri, USA
1990-1995 Graduate Research Assistant, Plant Molecular Biology, University of Maryland, Maryland, USA
- Honors and Appointments
1995 Carol Cox Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, University of Maryland, Maryland, USA
1998-2001 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in Biotechnology
National Science Award, Singapore, 2006
2012 Selected as one of the “Thousand Talents Program”
2012-Present Editorial Board Member (and Reviewer) of Cell Reports
2016 – Presently on the Editorial Board (and Reviewer) of Genomics, Proteomics, and Bioinformatics