China Could Use Medical Data to Blackmail Americans, Report Says

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Chinese investment in the U.S. biotechnology industry presents a risk to national security, potentially giving China’s government access to patient data that could be used to blackmail Americans, according to a report for a Congressional advisory commission.

Biotech companies in China have access to technology and data through investments in U.S. companies, partnerships with American universities and recruitment of U.S.-trained researchers, the report for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said.

“Chinese biotechnology companies are acquiring technologies crucial to advancement in the field as well as amassing large collections of clinical and genetic data on U.S. residents,” the report published Feb. 14 said.

New U.S. regulations have put biotech on the same level in terms of importance to national security as aerospace and microchips. Chinese investors have been a mainstay of recent fundraising by private biotechnology firms. At least one Chinese investor participated in 41 U.S. biotech financing deals valued at a total of $2.6 billion last year, according to Pitchbook.

“Theoretically, access to private information on security-sensitive U.S. persons creates a risk of blackmail and may reveal health conditions exploitable in a targeted attack,” the commission report said.

The commission, which reports to Congress on national security implications of U.S.-China trade and economic ties, released the report prepared by Gryphon Scientific, a consulting firm based in Takoma Park, Maryland, and founded by Rocco Casagrande, a former United Nations biological weapons inspector.

While noting China is “a leading originator of cyberattacks on the U.S.” that target personal health-care-related data, the commission’s report said there was no evidence so far that the Chinese government has used such data in a “strategic and hostile way.”

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