Ventria Bioscience places alleged seed thief on leave

December 17, 2013

FORT COLLINS – Ventria Bioscience has placed on leave an employee accused of stealing seeds from the Fort Collins-based company.

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Ventria Bioscience is cooperating with authorities in the matter, CEO Scott Deeter told the Business Report in an email.

“We have placed Weiqiang Zhang on leave until we can learn the facts in the case,” Deeter said.

Zhang, 47, a Chinese national and employee in Ventria’s Junction City, Kan., is charged with conspiring to steal seeds developed by Ventria, Wichita Public Radio reported Friday.

Authorities found stolen seeds in the luggage of a Chinese delegation preparing to board a plane for China last August.

“Luckily, the Customs and Border Protection and FBI were able to intercept the seeds,” Deeter said. “We do not have more information at this time.”

Zhang and Wengui Yan, 63, a U.S. Department of Agriculture rice geneticist and Chinese national who also faces a count of conspiring to steal seeds from Ventria, were taken into custody last week, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Established in 2001, Ventria makes proteins and stores them in self-pollinating plants such as rice and barley. The company aims to use those proteins in drugs for worldwide distribution.

Read Wichita Public Radio’s report here and the Wall Street Journal’s report here.

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