4 UF faculty leave as officials investigate foreign meddling

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Four faculty members have left the University of Florida as the school and federal government investigate foreign exploitation of American-funded medical research.

Two researchers from the College of Engineering and one from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences resigned, and a College of Medicine employee was terminated after the university received a letter from the National Institutes of Health regarding questionable foreign meddling in grant research and funding, the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday.

“The university has identified certain faculty members who were participating or were seeking to participate in a foreign talents program. The university has addressed or is in the process of addressing each of these matters,” UF President W. Kent Fuchs wrote in a Dec. 13 letter to U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.

It was not immediately clear what specifically the faculty members had allegedly done.

Two of the researchers were tied directly to the inquiry by the NIH, which gives out $30 billion a year to American scientists and universities for biomedical research. Activity by the two others came to light during the university’s own review, UF spokesman Steve Orlando said.

NIH awarded UF more than $190 million in grants last year. The agency has launched 180 individual inquiries into 70 institutions related to foreign attempts to take advantage of U.S.-backed medical research.

Last month, the CEO, a vice president and four researchers resigned from Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center after being linked to the possible exploitation of American-funded research by China. Evidence was found that the six Moffitt employees were potentially compensated by a Chinese talent recruitment program and failed to disclose it, officials at the center said. Moffitt officials did not divulge whether employees accepted money from China, but said an internal investigation revealed conflicts of interest and a lack of disclosure of international collaborators.