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1 Charge Dropped Against Researcher

UC Davis: Allegation of embezzlement remains in a case involving corneal transplants.

June 05, 2002|BETTINA BOXALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosecutors Tuesday dropped a charge of trade secret theft against a UC Davis researcher who had been doing corneal transplant work in a university lab.

Bin Han, 40, who still faces embezzlement charges, was subsequently released from the Yolo County jail, where he had been held without bail since being arrested at his Davis home May 18.

"In essence, the trade secret count [was] dismissed because the information is not a trade secret," said Richard Allaye Chan, Han's defense attorney.

Han, who Chan said was fired May 13, had worked as a UC Davis researcher since 1989.

He was arrested after campus police searched his home and found what they described as research notes and vials of material for the growing of cornea cells.

According to court documents, UC Davis police launched an investigation after a manager in the Davis Medical Center Ophthalmology Department reported her concerns that Han was stealing research ideas and apparently setting up a lab in China, from where he had emigrated.

Chan said in an interview that the notes police found in Han's home were personal and of the sort any researcher would scribble, that the vials of material in his freezer were not patented and that work of a similar nature had been conducted elsewhere.

He also said Han was the lead author on an article describing the research, which had been submitted to a medical journal.

"All the research he was doing was in the public realm already," Chan said, adding that there was "nothing sinister" about Han's possession of the vials, which the university says Han picked up as part of a lab delivery from a local biotech firm.

Yolo County Deputy Dist. Atty. David Akulian declined to comment on the case.

A UC Davis spokesman said the trade secret charge was dropped with the understanding it could be refiled if additional evidence was uncovered.

"The investigation is continuing," said university spokesman Paul Pfotenhauer.

"Did he have information where perhaps he could have benefited by selling this to China? We are still investigating this issue of intellectual property."

Han's lab was conducting research on the growth of human corneal cells that might be used in corneal transplants.

Han, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was ordered to surrender his passport during Tuesday's Superior Court hearing and was released on his own recognizance.

A preliminary hearing on the embezzlement charge is scheduled next month.

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