A lawyer for Takashi Okamoto, a Japanese researcher charged with stealing genetic materials from a U.S. medical institute in Ohio, denies Okamoto brought any of the materials with him to Japan and said the material in question was jointly developed by Okamoto and another researcher before he arrived at the institute.
But the lawyer did not say whether Okamoto had taken any material at all from the foundation.
Okamoto, a former researcher at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, developed the genetic materials himself at the University of Tokyo and Harvard University and with a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York, the lawyer said late Saturday night. He then took the materials to the Cleveland Clinic, the lawyer said.
A U.S. federal prosecutor said Wednesday a grand jury in Ohio has charged Okamoto, 40, and his alleged accomplice, Hiroaki Serizawa, 39, with stealing genetic material on Alzheimer’s Disease from the Cleveland Clinic and sending it to Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken), where Okamoto now works.
Okamoto and Serizawa, who is an assistant professor of molecular biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, were indicted on charges of violating the Economic Espionage Act, transporting stolen property and making false statements to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.
The two researchers were also charged with destroying materials at the Cleveland Clinic.
Serizawa, who has denied the allegation through his lawyer, was arrested Wednesday but was bailed out on a $20,000 bond the following day. Economic espionage in the U.S. carries a maximum penalty of 15 years and a $500,000 fine.
Okamoto worked at the Cleveland Clinic between January 1997 and July 1999, conducting research into the causes of and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. Serizawa has been working at the medical center since December 1996.
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