A former colleague said that the mystery surrounding the two dismissed scientists pointed to a bigger problem in the Canadian High Security Laboratory
Two leading scientists stood beside two researchers fired from Canada’s only Level 4 virology laboratory, but instead pointed their fingers at problems inside the Winnipeg facility.
Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Cheng Keding, a biologist, were stripped of their safety clearance in July 2019 and were escorted out of the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML).
they are And was fired in January, Although the Public Health Agency of Canada refused to explain why. The RCMP investigation is also ongoing; no allegations have been made.
For months, opposition lawmakers have been asking for a reply to the couple’s dismissal of the Chinese students who worked with them, asking whether It may be related to espionage.
PHAC and government officials were tight-lipped about the dismissal, initially citing privacy legislation, but recently stated that the case involved national security issues.
Now two former colleagues stand up and say that the hype is wrong.
Intellectual property disputes
For the past two years, Gary Kobinger has been watching the case with frustration and skepticism in his laboratory at Laval University.
As the head of NML’s Special Pathogens Department, until 2016, Kobinger and Qiu worked closely together and became internationally renowned for creating an Ebola vaccine, ZMapp, which has saved thousands of lives in West Africa.
“[Qiu] Tell me, “This is a misunderstanding. I don’t know why I was kicked out of the building.” She didn’t understand. From the bottom of her heart, she said it was a misunderstanding,” he said in an interview.
After talking with Qiu and other government scientists, Kobinger stated that he believed that the incident started when Qiu traveled to China-with the knowledge and approval of NML- Assist in the establishment of a Level 4 laboratory in Wuhan.
Kobinger said that someone at PHAC was worried that she would share proprietary information about biosafety protocols and safety workflows.
Watch | Kobinger talks about the safety of Qiu’s foreign graduate students:
But this is something that colleagues often do, he said, “so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel or repeat past mistakes.”
“These agreements are very location-specific because they are very important [dependent] In the physical room where the work is done,” Kobinger said.
“So share this-is it really intellectual property rights? Did you violate intellectual property rights because you said,’On our side, the way we purify this material is A, B, C, D?'”
After these trips, PHAC found that Qiu was listed as the inventor Two patents Reports submitted by Chinese institutions in 2017 and 2019-Kobinger said such concerns are unnecessary snowballs.
Watch | Kobinger talks about the mishandling of the case:
“She did a lot of the work we did before… testing molecules and vaccines from other laboratories, which is one of the reasons why we have successfully developed Ebola vaccines and treatments,” he said. “In the field of science, you can’t work on an island and think you can succeed.”
Chinese scientists praised her work, but PHAC and NML are not mentioned in the patent. This means that if the technology enters the market, Canada is unlikely to receive royalties related to any sales of the technology.
Federal legislation stipulates that Ottawa owns all inventions of civil servants, and government employees are not allowed to apply for patents abroad without the permission of the minister.
Although PHAC was correct in raising the issue about patents, Kobinger said the agency had overreacted.
Qiu told him that she didn’t know that her name had been added to the patent-and she herself reported the second to PHAC.
He said: “Honest and open discussions from the beginning can be very, very useful and can avoid where we are now.”
Chinese military scientists enter the fourth-level laboratory
When Qiu was escorted out of NML in July 2019, all her Chinese students were also asked to leave-a move that showed PHAC’s concern about who could enter the laboratory, which was equipped with the most serious and deadly humans. Working equipment and animal diseases.
Security experts and politicians also raised this issue, and they further pointed to a graduate student: Yan Feihu.
Anyone working in a Winnipeg laboratory needs one of them Level 3 Federal Security Permit:
Reliability status—the minimum standard for positions that require unsupervised access to information, assets, facilities, or information technology systems protected by the Canadian government—assess a person’s honesty and whether they can be trusted to protect the interests of the employer.
Secret and top-secret permits assess a person’s loyalty to Canada to determine whether they have or may engage in activities that constitute a “threat to Canadian security”. These permits involve in-depth background checks by RCMP and CSIS, dating back 10 years, and include a “loyalty to Canada” test.
Another scientist who has worked at NML for more than ten years told CBC News that there are ways to bypass the strict censorship process, especially for non-Canadians who are sometimes brought in as visiting scientists or students.
CBC did not disclose his identity because he feared PHAC’s retaliation. In the video below, others are reading what the scientist said in an interview with CBC.
Watch | Former NML scientist said that Dr. Qiu Xiangguo does not fit the image of a spy:
He said that some international customs clearance may take months or even years. “This is another reason why…senior managers sometimes bypass this.”
The scientist said in an interview: “I have worked at NML long enough, and you will see people wandering where they shouldn’t be, just because as a companion, you usually don’t stay with that person all the time. .”
“You will send them to the laboratory, they will do their job, you will be in your office, and then they can walk around and do what they want to do.”
The source said that in some cases, non-citizens can obtain a limited state of reliability. Sources in the laboratory further confirmed to CBC News that in some cases involving Qiu’s students, these restrictions were ignored.
But the former NML scientist said that Qiu cannot authorize her students alone, because senior management must approve it.
“NML, they try to cover up a lot of problems,” he said. “There is no doubt that this may have fallen from a crack.”
In the past few months, opposition lawmakers have requested the release of unedited documents related to the couple’s dismissal.
Although PHAC has handed over these documents to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Congressmen, whose members have the highest security clearance, the agency has Refused to release them to parliament.
The Liberal government has gone so far Request the Federal Court to block the release Information, saying it “may endanger national security or be related to an ongoing criminal investigation or the privacy of Canadians.”
Both scientists who spoke to CBC News asserted that NML’s research actually lags behind China in terms of technology and discovery, so there is nothing to steal.
Watch | Former NML scientist says Qiu Xiangguo should not be fired:
PHAC declined the request for an interview, and will not state whether Yan and other researchers’ cases are in compliance with the security license agreement, and will not comment on intellectual property issues.
“Unless authorized by the attorney general or a federal court order, it is prohibited to disclose certain information related to this matter,” it said in a statement.
A CSIS spokesperson stated that the agency has never confirmed or denied any connection with their investigation, and the RCMP will not talk about any ongoing investigations.
Reporters could not reach Qiu and Cheng for comment, but during a recent visit to their main home in Winnipeg, a young man answered the door.
He would not confirm where the couple are currently, but told CBC News that he would contact them.
“I can convey your message, but…no guarantee,” he said.