Research group to pay $1.1M to settle probe of ties to China

Associated Press

Grand Rapids — A biomedical research center in Grand Rapids has agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a federal investigation that began when authorities in 2020 discovered research samples in the luggage of a Chinese scientist arriving at the Detroit airport.

The government accused the Van Andel Institute of failing to disclose a foreign component of federally sponsored research.

“Full disclosure is essential, not only in validating scientific research but also in the intense competition for scientific funding from the federal government,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge said in a statement released Wednesday.

The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, said grant recipients must disclose and obtain approval if a significant part of a government-funded project is performed outside the U.S., even if foreign researchers don't receive any NIH money.

The scientist who was stopped at the airport was a former Van Andel Institute employee who worked at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, the government said. He had nine blotter papers and a vial of liquid.

The government alleged that the Van Andel Institute also didn't do enough to investigate earlier samples from China.

The institute said staff members are required to meet federal compliance rules.

“We recognize the importance of the transparency and detailed reporting required of federal research funding recipients,” said Jana Hall, chief operations officer. “We have greatly enhanced our compliance environment since 2019 and will continue to do so."