Evidence at trial established that Zhang worked as a rice breeder for Ventria Bioscience in Junction City, Kansas. Ventria develops genetically programmed rice to express recombinant human proteins, which are then extracted for use in the therapeutic and medical fields. Zhang has a master’s degree in agriculture from Shengyang Agricultural University in China and a doctorate from Louisiana State University.
According to trial evidence, Zhang acquired without authorization hundreds of rice seeds produced by Ventria and stored them at his residence in Manhattan. The rice seeds have a wide variety of health research applications and were developed to produce either human serum albumin, contained in blood, or lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein found, for example, in human milk. Ventria spent millions of dollars and years of research developing its seeds and cost-effective methods to extract the proteins, which are used to develop life-saving products for global markets. Ventria used locked doors with magnetic card readers to restrict access to the temperature-controlled environment where the seeds were stored and processed.