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House Continues To Probe Chinese Meddling At Moffitt, Other Institutions

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Thomas Iacobucci/ WUSF
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A House investigative committee late Monday delved further into the issue of Chinese meddling at Florida research institutions, following a recent case at Moffitt Cancer Center. 

The Tampa cancer center, which receives state funding, went through a shake-up after the center’s chief executive officer, a senior member of the center and four researchers resigned over alleged violations of conflict-of-interest rules related to work in China.

“This was a predatory act by the People’s Republic of China that had a long planning horizon where that country used its military and its cyber infrastructure to prey on us,” David de La Parte, executive vice president and in-house general counsel at Moffitt, told the House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions.

He said the center conducted a review of grants and publications and found no evidence that intellectual property had been stolen or that research of patient care had been compromised. But “out of an abundance of caution,” he told the committee, the center returned roughly $1.1 million to the state.

The money was tied to the salaries, compensation and benefits of Howard McLeod, a senior member in Moffitt’s Department of Cancer Epidemiology, and Dr. Yijing He, a scientist who worked with McLeod. Both of them resigned.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who will be the next House speaker, will continue to investigate potentially improper activities involving Florida’s research universities. Sprowls said the committee is awaiting information from private colleges and universities.