Inside the fierce, messy fight over “healthy” sugar tech

In an electronic mail to Rogers that December—obtained, like many of the others on this story, from courtroom filings—Zhang wrote: “Some initiatives that you just thought have been owned by CFB are usually not owned by CFB.” He defined that each the inositol and the sugar phosphate applied sciences really originated in his TIB lab and had been funded by a Chinese language company earlier than CFB started work on them. This is able to imply, he wrote, that CFB couldn’t declare full possession of both, however solely construct upon the Chinese language work.

Earlier than that e-mail, Rogers had proposed splitting CFB, leaving Zhang his sci-fi bio-battery and sugar-to-hydrogen ideas, whereas Rogers would commercialize the nearer-term uncommon sugars. Zhang dismissed the thought, and to nobody’s shock, he didn’t renew Rogers’s CEO contract, later citing his “failure to lift a single funding greenback.” However Rogers, who retained a small stake within the firm as a part of his compensation, was not able to stroll away. On the finish of December 2015, he despatched CFB an electronic mail referencing a “obvious” contradiction between statements the corporate had made in NSF grant purposes whereas he was interim CEO and statements made by Zhang. 

For example, Rogers identified that whereas Zhang had informed him the rights to the manufacturing course of for sugar phosphates have been Chinese language, one software acknowledged that CFB owned the rights and would commercialize the method within the US. “If there’s a downside,” Rogers warned, “I can not look the opposite means. After all, any whiff of grant fraud will trigger potential licensees and potential buyers to flee.”

Within the electronic mail, Rogers reiterated his suggestion that CFB switch the rights for tagatose and one other uncommon sugar known as arabinose, in addition to the rights for the sugar phosphates course of, to a brand new startup he was aspiring to type. However he wished to maneuver quick, ideally inside every week. “If you happen to want extra time, please let me know, however time is working brief in a number of methods,” he wrote. 

sugar cubes divided into piles


Zhang once more refused to separate the corporate, and on January 6, 2016, time ran out. Rogers included Bonumose within the state of Virginia and, 9 days later, despatched an electronic mail to the NSF’s Workplace of Inspector Basic entitled “Report of attainable NSF grant fraud.”

It quoted from some seemingly damning emails between Zhang and Rogers. In a single, despatched in the summertime of 2015, Zhang writes: “About sugar phosphate mission, the experiments have been carried out by one in every of my collaborators and my satellite tv for pc lab in China. The know-how switch will happen in China solely. If this mission is funded by [the NSF], most of cash will probably be used to fund the opposite mission in CFB.” That meant the promising tagatose analysis, which had not but obtained any official NSF funding.

One other, relating to a second NSF inositol proposal, took the same tack: “Almost all experiments … have been completed. Chun You [CFB’s chief scientist] and I’ve filed a Chinese language patent on behalf of ourselves, no relation to CFB … Whether it is funded, most of [the NSF money] will probably be used for CFB to help the opposite initiatives.” 

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