Our opinion: Hormel Institute continues to deserve public’s support

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, February 19, 2020

In light of the recent questions surrounding the work of Dr. Zigang Dong during his tenure as executive director of The Hormel Institute, it’s important to remind people of all of the good work being done at the institute.

In an article that was part of a two-part series by the Star Tribune about the University of Minnesota’s collaborations with China, Dr. Dong was part of an investigation by the National Institutes of Health and the federal government, looking into the possible theft of scientific secrets by the secretive nation.

In Dong’s specific case, the investigation was centered on two grants in 2014 where he allegedly failed to reveal support he was receiving from China. A prerequisite on any grant from the NIH is to provide all sources of funding so as to better determine how much money a grant requester may get.

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When the NIH pressed the University of Minnesota to investigate Dong, he claimed that obligations were limited and there was no direct compensation.

University of Minnesota Vice President of Research Christopher J. Cramer later indicated; however, there was $175,000 in supplemental funding, but that the U of M was unaware of this.

Dong has since left the country for China and it’s uncertain what else may come of the investigation.

What is certain is all of the good work that scientists from the Institute are doing and will continue to do. In a climate of doubt, science is being faced with false narratives outside of scientific circles, challenging proven results with disbelief or pseudosciences that have no basis in proven results.

While Dong’s alleged transgressions are harmful to science, it should be a reminder that this is just one exception to the exceptionally good science that’s being done each day at the Institute. Ground-breaking discoveries from The Hormel Institute benefit all of use in the fight against cancer.

We hope this work will continue with the support these scientists have always enjoyed from within our community. Austin, the state of Minnesota and the world are extremely fortunate to have these scientists within our community and we sincerely hope we are not alone in this feeling.