Q. Is the true that federal agents arrested Harvard professor Charles Lieber for producing the coronavirus?

A: No. Lieber, a nanoscientist, was charged for lying around his participation in a Chinese recruitment program and his affiliation with a Chinese university. The is not accused of being a spy and also has no link to the new coronavirus.

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Did Charles Lieber and two Chinese students obtain arrested for producing the virus?

Did Dr. Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s Dept of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, get captured lying to the Dept the Defense around paying money come China neighboring the Coronavirus?

Is the story about federal agents arresting Dr. Charles Lieberman true? It additionally alleges the Coronavirus began at the ar of a organic warfare breakthrough lab in China. Is the true?


We’ve received more than a dozen inquiries asking around the veracity of society media posts and memes that tell the story the Charles Lieber, a influential Harvard scientist that was charged by the department of justice on Jan. 28 for repeatedly making false statements about his ties to China.

The posts, few of which have actually been mutual upwards the 6,500 times on Facebook and also are accompanied by a photograph of Lieber, do a series of statements the falsely imply the Harvard scientist is connected to the COVID-19 outbreak that started in Wuhan, China, in ~ the end of 2019.

Facebook post: In situation you to let go it, yesterday, federal Agents arrested Dr. Charles Lieber, chair that Harvard University’s room of Chemistry and also Chemical Biology, v lying to the room of Defense about secret monthly payments of $50,000.00 payment by China and also receipt that millions much more to help collection up a chemical/biological “Research” laboratory in China. Likewise arrested were 2 Chinese “Students” functioning as study assistants, one of whom was in reality a sublieutenant in the Chinese Army, the other recorded at Logan Airport as he make the efforts to record a trip to China – smuggling 21 vials that “Sensitive organic Samples” according to the FBI.

Oh, almost forgot. The study lab the an excellent professor had helped collection up? It’s located at the Wuhan university of Technology. Wuhan China is soil zero to the potentially worldwide pandemic known as the “Coronavirus”which is both dispersing rapidly and killing people.

This is Stephen Coonts worldwide spy novel stuff happening in actual life – and it has actually barely made the news.

While every individual declare of the article is largely accurate, the main takeaway — that Lieber, probably working v two students, had actually something to do with the new coronavirus — is false.

In fact, no Lieber nor the two other individuals, every of whom to be charged in separate instances in link with aiding the People’s Republic that China, have any known attach to the brand-new virus. And as we have actually written before, over there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus to be engineered in a lab.

What occurred With Lieber

On Jan. 28, the room of righteousness announced the charges against Lieber and also the 2 Chinese nationals in a single press release. But as the location of the relax says, the three cases are “separate.”

As chair of harvard chemistry and chemical biologic department, Lieber is the most high-profile of the three. According to the complaint, Lieber lied come both the room of Defense and the national Institutes the Health around his affiliation with Wuhan university of Technology, or WUT, and his involvement with China’s “Thousand talents Plan,” a regimen designed to recruitment Chinese ex-pats and also foreign researchers to China. 

Lieber also allegedly failed come disclose huge sums the money he got from the Chinese government, including an ext than $1.5 million to begin a lab in ~ WUT and a salary of up to $50,000 per month, plus living costs for his occupational at WUT.

The post’s summary gets most of this right, but suggests with quotation marks that Lieber’s rap in China might not have been focused on legit research. Over there is no evidence that’s true.

According to the charging document, Lieber’s three-year Thousand talent contract compelled him to lug out the usual job attributes of academic scientists, such together publishing in top journals, advising students and organizing conferences.

The issue for investigators, as a scientific research magazine post details, is not that Lieber to be acting together a spy, yet that he can be delicate to Chinese pressure in the future. “It to be the amount of money connected that drew our attention,” Andrew Lelling, one of the prosecutors top the case, called Science. “That is a corrupting level that money.”

There is nothing naturally wrong through Lieber participating in the Chinese program, however he necessary to disclose those relationships and funds come Harvard and when receiving approve money indigenous U.S. Agencies. Lieber allegedly failed to execute so on many occasions, including when he to be asked around his Chinese ties indigenous curious investigators. Lieber has actually not been charged through sharing pundit property through the Chinese.

The social media article goes on to indicate that Lieber is somehow connected to the new coronavirus due to the fact that the Chinese college he was associated with was located in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 outbreak began. However there is no evidence that is anything an ext than a coincidence. When we asked around any connection in between Lieber and the new coronavirus, a DOJ spokesperson told united state in an email, “The department of Justice has actually made no together allegation.”

Lieber is a nanoscientist who studies and develops extremely tiny materials on the nanometer scale. (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter; a strand that DNA is about 2.5 nanometers thick.) when his work has recently focused on coming up v novel methods of using nanowires in cells, he is not a biologist, nor does he have actually expertise in viruses.

Lieber’s affiliated school, Wuhan university of Technology, also does not appear to do work with viruses, according to a list of research projects on that is website. WUT is mainly an engineering school, focused on topics such as material science, transportation and logistics. 

Furthermore, Lieber is charged v making false statements to the department of Defense in 2018 and to the NIH in January 2019, well prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in ~ the finish of critical year. The timing of the announced charges simply happened come overlap with news of the outbreak.

Two Unrelated Cases also Have No attach to Coronavirus

Neither the the other situations the department of righteousness announced on Jan. 28 has a connection to the new coronavirus, either. 

In one, Yanqing Ye, a 29-year-old that studied in ~ Boston college from October 2017 come April 2019, admitted to being a lieutenant in the Chinese army. She allegedly lied about her continuous position in the military to gain her visa, and while in the U.S. Researched American army projects and compiled virtual information about two professors functioning in the areas of computer security and intelligent robotics. Ye to be indicted on four counts, including visa fraud, making false statements, acting as an certified dealer of a foreign government and also conspiracy.

As through Lieber, Ye, who is at this time in China, go not have expertise in virology. The single document we found that Ye published as a researcher in ~ Boston University’s facility for Polymer research studies was about a computational technique for analyzing data; it has nothing to do with viruses.

The other instance involves Zaosong Zheng, a 30-year-old Chinese national who had conducted cancer research at harvard Beth Israel Deaconess medical Center and also attempted to smuggle 21 vials of biological specimens out of the country. 

On Dec. 9, 2019, Zheng accused tried to paris to Beijing through the vials surprise in a sock in his luggage. Federal agents in ~ Boston’s Logan airport, however, stopped him, and also Zheng ultimately admitted that he had stolen the vials from a Beth Israel lab. The told policemans that he planned to proceed doing research with the samples in his very own lab in China, acquisition credit because that the results and also publishing under his name. 

Zheng was charged through smuggling goods from the U.S. And making false statements come Customs and also Border protection officers. He remains in custody, according to the DOJ release.

The short article claims the Zheng smuggled 21 vials of “Sensitive organic Samples,” however the indigenous “sensitive” does not show up in the charging paper or the FBI agent’s affidavit. The affidavit notes the the vials included a brown liquid and that Zheng claimed he had stolen eight of the vials from the lab and then worked to replicate the staying 11 without the knowledge of Beth Israel.

The Beth Israel rap in i m sorry Zheng had operated is concentrated on straightforward research around cancer, and also studies, for example, the molecule details of exactly how cancerous cells are able to get over the common checks on the cell cycle to form tumors.

Oddly, the post concludes through saying, “This is Stephen Coonts global spy novel stuff happening in actual life – and it has barely do the news.” In fact, every of the stories has received significant news coverage, including thorough reporting in science news outlets on Lieber and also a new York time story committed to Zaosong Zheng’s airport antics.

Of course, there has actually been no mention of the coronavirus in this news stories because there is no legitimate connection to the new virus. If the social media post for the most part does no overtly misstate the facts, the prevailing message it sends is false.


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Barry, Ellen. “U.S. Accuses Harvard Scientist the Concealing Chinese Funding.” new York Times. 28 jan 2020.

Fernandes, Deirdre. “Chinese clinical student accused that trying to smuggle cancer research product out the Boston.” Boston Globe. 30 Dec 2019.

Subbaraman, Nidhi. “Harvard chemistry chief’s arrest end China links shocks researchers.” Nature. 3 Feb 2020.

Halford, Bethany and Andrea L. Widener. “Harvard chemist Charles Lieber charged with fraud.” chemical & design News. 28 january 2020.

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Barry, Ellen. “Stolen Research: Chinese Scientist Is Accused the Smuggling laboratory Samples.” new York Times. 31 Dec 2019.