Smart, Affectionate & Youthful

Inside the intense, messy struggle around “healthier” sugar tech

In an e mail to Rogers that December—obtained, like most of the other individuals in this story, from courtroom filings—Zhang wrote: “Some projects that you imagined were being owned by CFB are not owned by CFB.” He spelled out that both equally the inositol and the sugar phosphate technologies essentially originated in his TIB lab and experienced been funded by a Chinese agency just before CFB commenced do the job on them. This would signify, he wrote, that CFB could not assert comprehensive possession of either, but only construct upon the Chinese operate.

Prior to that e-mail, Rogers experienced proposed splitting CFB, leaving Zhang his sci-fi bio-battery and sugar-to-hydrogen ideas, whilst Rogers would commercialize the nearer-expression uncommon sugars. Zhang dismissed the notion, and to no one’s surprise, he did not renew Rogers’s CEO deal, later citing his “failure to raise a solitary expense dollar.” But Rogers, who retained a small stake in the company as aspect of his compensation, was not completely ready to walk away. At the close of December 2015, he sent CFB an e mail referencing a “glaring” contradiction between statements the organization experienced made in NSF grant programs while he was interim CEO and statements created by Zhang. 

As an example, Rogers pointed out that although Zhang had told him the legal rights to the production approach for sugar phosphates ended up Chinese, one particular software stated that CFB owned the legal rights and would commercialize the procedure in the US. “If there is a trouble,” Rogers warned, “I can not search the other way. Of system, any whiff of grant fraud will bring about prospective licensees and probable traders to flee.”

In the email, Rogers reiterated his recommendation that CFB transfer the legal rights for tagatose and a further unusual sugar known as arabinose, as well as the rights for the sugar phosphates procedure, to a new startup he was intending to variety. But he desired to go speedy, preferably inside a week. “If you need far more time, please enable me know, but time is running shorter in quite a few methods,” he wrote. 


Zhang all over again refused to split the organization, and on January 6, 2016, time ran out. Rogers incorporated Bonumose in the state of Virginia and, nine days later, sent an e mail to the NSF’s Workplace of Inspector Basic entitled “Report of attainable NSF grant fraud.”

It quoted from some seemingly damning email messages amongst Zhang and Rogers. In a single, sent in the summer time of 2015, Zhang writes: “About sugar phosphate task, the experiments have been performed by one particular of my collaborators and my satellite lab in China. The know-how transfer will occur in China only. If this challenge is funded by [the NSF], most of funds will be applied to fund the other job in CFB.” That meant the promising tagatose exploration, which experienced not yet obtained any formal NSF funding.

A further, regarding a second NSF inositol proposal, took a equivalent tack: “Nearly all experiments … have been concluded. Chun You [CFB’s chief scientist] and I have filed a Chinese patent on behalf of ourselves, no relation to CFB … If it is funded, most of [the NSF money] will be utilized for CFB to support the other jobs.”