Earlier than that e-mail, Rogers had proposed splitting CFB, leaving Zhang his sci-fi bio-battery and sugar-to-hydrogen ideas, whereas Rogers would commercialize the nearer-term uncommon sugars. Zhang dismissed the concept, and to nobody’s shock, he didn’t renew Rogers’s CEO contract, later citing his “failure to lift a single funding greenback.” However Rogers, who retained a small stake within the firm as a part of his compensation, was not able to stroll away. On the finish of December 2015, he despatched CFB an e-mail referencing a “obtrusive” contradiction between statements the corporate had made in NSF grant purposes whereas he was interim CEO and statements made by Zhang.
For instance, Rogers identified that whereas Zhang had instructed him the rights to the manufacturing course of for sugar phosphates had been Chinese language, one utility said that CFB owned the rights and would commercialize the method within the US. “If there’s a drawback,” Rogers warned, “I can’t look the opposite means. After all, any whiff of grant fraud will trigger potential licensees and potential traders to flee.”
Within the e-mail, Rogers reiterated his suggestion that CFB switch the rights for tagatose and one other uncommon sugar known as arabinose, in addition to the rights for the sugar phosphates course of, to a brand new startup he was desiring to kind. However he wished to maneuver quick, ideally inside every week. “For those who want extra time, please let me know, however time is working quick in a number of methods,” he wrote.
Zhang once more refused to separate the corporate, and on January 6, 2016, time ran out. Rogers included Bonumose within the state of Virginia and, 9 days later, despatched an e-mail to the NSF’s Workplace of Inspector Basic entitled “Report of attainable NSF grant fraud.”
It quoted from some seemingly damning emails between Zhang and Rogers. In a single, despatched in the summertime of 2015, Zhang writes: “About sugar phosphate undertaking, the experiments have been performed by considered one of my collaborators and my satellite tv for pc lab in China. The expertise switch will happen in China solely. If this undertaking is funded by [the NSF], most of cash will probably be used to fund the opposite undertaking in CFB.” That meant the promising tagatose analysis, which had not but acquired any official NSF funding.
One other, concerning a second NSF inositol proposal, took an analogous tack: “Practically all experiments … have been completed. Chun You [CFB’s chief scientist] and I’ve filed a Chinese language patent on behalf of ourselves, no relation to CFB … Whether it is funded, most of [the NSF money] will probably be used for CFB to help the opposite tasks.”
Utilizing authorities funds for a special goal from the one for which they had been awarded is strictly, and explicitly, forbidden. Inside weeks, the NSF had begun its investigation and suspended all funds to CFB.