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Posted on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 5:18 p.m.

Chinese official: intellectual property is safe in partnership with University of Michigan

By Nathan Bomey

A top Chinese university executive offered her assurance today that technology developed through a new partnership with the University of Michigan would be shared properly through an intellectual property agreement negotiated by the two universities.

U-M executives and officials from Peking University today met in Ann Arbor to sign an agreement officially establishing a joint institute to pursue medical technologies.


Yang Ke (right), executive vice president of Peking University, and Ora Pescovitz, the University of Michigan's executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of the U-M Health System, sign documents establishing a joint institute between the U-M Medical School and Peking Health Science Center.

Angela J. Cesere |

The agreement between the U-M Medical School and Peking University Health Science Center will include collaborative research projects, clinical trials and exchanging of faculty scientists and doctors. Both universities will contribute $7 million to fund the institute.

The agreement comes as concerns are mounting about academic integrity in China. The New York Times last week published a report detailing “rampant fraud” in China’s academic world and citing a survey in which 55 percent of 32,000 Chinese scientists said they knew someone who had committed academic fraud.

Yang Ke, executive vice president of Peking University, said in an interview that Peking researchers would be "following the international standard for the IRB," apparently a reference to institutional review boards. She said the intellectual property agreement between U-M and Peking is firm.

“I think that’s one of the most special part of our collaboration, because at the beginning, at the very beginning, we talk about the intellectual properties,” she told without a translator. “We have to follow the rule, both parties have to follow the rule.”

Yang made her statements after executives from both universities celebrated the establishment of the joint institute in an event this afternoon at U-M’s Biomedical Science Research Building. A contingent of 18 researchers and leaders from Peking University visited U-M today as part of the festivities.

“For those of you who are wondering why would we pursue global partnerships like this one, the answer is really simple. I cannot think of one thing that we do or one success that we have had, as a university or as a health system, that doesn’t require teamwork or collaboration,” said Ora Pescovitz, U-M Medical School’s executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of the U-M Health System.

She added: “If we want to fulfill the University of Michigan Medical School’s vision of creating the future of medicine, if we want to become a global leader in medicine, we must deepen our understanding of disease and its impact, not only on individuals and communities but on nations worldwide. To do that successfully, we must invite global perspectives. We must invite global ideas into our laboratories and into our offices.”

The life sciences research between the two universities will aim for scientific breakthroughs in medicine to treat pulmonary, cardiovascular and liver diseases.

For U-M, access to Peking's sprawling health care operation is particularly valuable. Peking's medical facilities have 6,688 beds, complete 32,431 daily outpatient visits and report 1,810 daily emergency room visits. U-M has 930 beds, 6,411 daily outpatient visits and 319 daily ER visits.

Some 19 U-M Medical School departments were already collaborating with 31 Chinese universities on various research projects. U-M also has a joint research institute with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where engineers and scientists are conducting clean energy and biosciences research.

Among the activities expected to occur at the joint institute with Peking University, U-M researchers will help Chinese researchers improve their ability to conduct rigorous clinical trials, for example.

“We have not been very strong in that area in the University of Michigan,” Yang said in an interview. “You have better experience than us.”

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Jay Thomas

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

On this subject we all seem to be agreed. Good luck U of M. :(


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

The following statement in a July 19th news release by Chinese at a Discera, Incorporated (an American company) "branch" office in Shenzhen, China provides incite into Chinese intentions towards using American innovation and ingenuity. "Chief Technology Officer Dr. Wan-Thai Hsu and Vice President of Worldwide Sales Dr. Kent Chon hosted the opening of the Discera, Inc. China Applications Center. By sharing our expertise in semiconductor timing, power reduction, and MEMS technology and sponsoring local research and development, Discera is helping Chinese businesses compete and win in the global marketplace, said Dr. Hsu. Discera leads with service and wins with reliability. Our newest facility will dramatically reduce both development and production lead times for customers accustomed to older technologies, said Dr. Chon."

John of Saline

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

The obvious risk of idea/technology theft is one issue. Another is medical ethics, which are a joke in China. Ask how they end up with such nice, fresh transplant organs.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7:31 a.m.

When I worked for a small technology company in Ann Arbor (a U-M spin-off), when we had Chinese customers on site, we had to monitor them continuously because every time one of them got near a computer he immediately started trying to hack into the code repository. We would also get support phone calls from Chinese companies that were not customers, and it turned out they were using counterfeit hardware and software. It seems that one company bought one of our systems, then they took it apart, reverse engineered it, and sold copies. The buyers of those counterfeit copies then called us in Ann Arbor for customer support when their counterfeits didn't work right! And let's not forget when the Chinese rammed a a US surveillance plane in 2001 and forced it to make an emergency landing. They dismantled it to steal all its technology. Trust the Chinese with your technology and you'll soon find copies for sale. Why are we even having this conversation? It's like asking if you jump in the ocean, will you get wet?


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7:14 a.m.

This is a joke, right? The Chinese treat the world as their personal Bit Torrent and we're giving them OUR data to hold onto? Pleeeeaaasssseeeeee!

Tex Treeder

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7:08 a.m.

Once again we're cutting our own throats for short term monetary gain. It's naive to expect the Chinese not to do whatever the hell they want to with information, technology, etc., once they have access to it. How many times do we need to learn this lesson?

Top Cat

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7:06 a.m.

In doing business with the Chinese, the ends justify the means. It is not surprising that this Chinese official can say stuff like this with a straight face but actually amazing that anyone here would buy it.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 5:19 a.m.

Schleggy, The Chinese are not the world leader in anything... period. They cobble together western technologies, put a shiny new coat of paint on the technology and market it as "Chinese technology". The Chinese companies I have worked with (too numerous to mention) never established the base processes and foundation for continued development in certain technologies. They copy technology and it works but they never did the hard work to develop technology so it is difficult for them to maintain the normal technology evolution. Note: They are just as smart as any American or western European but they have not put their time in. They want to leap-frog many of the steps other companies have executed so they can get to the market.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 12:55 a.m.

Why am I having trouble believing this? They've stolen every patent known to mankind.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 11:10 p.m.

Geez, Steffi. Get a sense of humor. Is it any wonder people laugh at you, not with you?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 11:04 p.m.

Can we get a spell checker on your submission window A2 dot com? Amen!


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 10:42 p.m.

This is laughable, please FOIA the agreement and first tell us the choice of forum and law clauses. While I mean no disrespect and understand the collaborative efforts of the organizers involved there is a more subversive layer to this. I think both sides stand to gain from getting infront of a window to tthe othersides methodologies. I willl say thisas a taxpaer, w,e need to sell our commodities, in this case a higher education US engineeering degree for what it is worth. I am sure we could get a pre-fabricated stadium bridge span in return for some high grade IP.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:53 p.m.

Why would the Chinese need to steal our ideas, they are a world leader of the world and have the tops in sciences and medical already! We should not get all worried about things like the boogie man that is what happened already with the security at the Big House stadium issue and now look, they are closing Main Street, do you want them to close North Campus too?!!


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 8:48 p.m.

The agreement is meaningless.... Once any trade secrets are shared with the Chinese they enter the stream of commerce regardless of any confidentiality obligations. I don't know how the patent ownership will be allocated but that is the one avenue to protect yourself in the US when dealing with a chinese partner. Good luck enforcing a chinese patent in a chinese court against a chinese state owned enterprise. (and all chinese businesses are by definition state owned)


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:51 p.m.

And a frog's behind isn't waterproof! If you believe that headline then you probably still believe in Santa Claus.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:31 p.m.

No one should be so quick to judge that Peking University will "steal" UofM's intellectual property based off what has happened elsewhere. First off, I am speaking from first hand account having studied at Peking University for two semesters. Peking is one of the world's top universities with ties to other prestigious universities from all over the world. They have long standing ties with UofM who even has an office on campus. They also have relations with UofM-Flint as well Standford, Duke, and Alabama to name a few. None which are as close as the realtionship with the University of Michigan so I trust the when the Peking officals say there intellectual property is safe. An interesting note about Peking University is that it was the place of origin of the Tianamen Square uprising. It's one the few places where you can actually have open dialogue in China about that very touchy subject.

Alan Benard

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7:17 p.m.

But frankly, why should the high cost of doing medical research in Michigan stand in the way of jobs in Bejing and medical technology that will probably improve the lives of people around the world? Or is Michigan just full of sour grapes - if we can't have the jobs, no-one who will work for less than us should have them?I believe that U-M should outsource every job it can to low-wage countries the minute its share of tax money received from the State of Michigan drops to $0.00.

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 7 p.m.

No need for language programs. The Chinese like most countries, long ago adopted English as the primary language for business and technology. If you look at the development of languages, English is very much a collection of what worked in other languages, both in spoken and especially in written form. I've asked Chinese students here and they maintain that English is a much faster language in which to learn to read and write than any of the orient languages. Also, native English speakers are prized in China and do not have to learn Mandarin in order to find jobs there. The Chinese want to speak English to you and in person they are very understandable. They are not so understandable over a cellphone. Also, even the most difficult to understand Chinese student at the U of M - their email communications are always in perfect English.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 5:39 p.m.

Our educators need to start lanquage programs in beginning in kindergarten. It's a small world and getting smaller.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

@chase Ingersol- no matter how cheap the research, if it is fraudulent, it is worse than worthless. The NYT article was an investigative report detailing many studies of the prevelence of fraud in Chinese academia. If the research cannot be done in America because of ethical concerns then UM must not allow it to be done in China. It is still a violation of federal grant standards. This is true even if the money comes from non-federal sources (e.g. a drug company).

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 5:12 p.m.

uawisok: reasonable reaction. But my first thought on this is that the reason for the partnership is that it allows the University of Michigan to: 1. have access to a larger pool of patients; 2. lower labor costs in China for the med tech parts of research such as drawing blood, testing and entering records; 3. reduced regulation for medical research in general not just situations like stem cell research; 4. far less risk of litigation; 5. overall, research and research methods that cannot be done in the US or if they can, at much greater cost than doing it in China. I think what U of M just did was outsource may a 1000 medically related research jobs to Bejing, even while there was all of the fuss about the 5 jobs at the Discera office in Shanghai. Someone should FOIA the agreement and then follow up with questions. But frankly, why should the high cost of doing medical research in Michigan stand in the way of jobs in Bejing and medical technology that will probably improve the lives of people around the world? Or is Michigan just full of sour grapes - if we can't have the jobs, no-one who will work for less than us should have them?


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 5 p.m.

We have not been very strong in that area in the University of Michigan, Yang said in an interview. You have better experience than us. That is exactly what I worry about in this collaboration. They start with little experience and you add to that the "rampant fraud" that was detailed in the NYT article and there is very real danger that UM will get entangled with bungled or fraudulent clinical trials that may harm patients and damage the reputation of UM. I can't imagine how UM can police fraud half way around the world in China.


Tue, Oct 12, 2010 : 4:55 p.m.

Wait I'm laughing to hard too type....You mean to tell me that multi billion dollar Microsoft, Apple...fill in the blank.... can't keep it's intellectual property safe but...wink,wink..."we will keep U-M's safe....can't stop laughing...gheez the Chinese must think we have stupid written on our foreheads??