FBI Houston
Public Affairs Specialist Christina Garza
(713) 936-7642
September 13, 2018

FBI Warns Texas Leaders of Foreign Threats to Research and Academic Institutions

HOUSTON, TX—Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Perrye K. Turner welcomed today, September 13, 2018, the Assistant Director (AD) of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, and leaders of Texas medical, scientific research, and academic institutions. AD Priestap discussed the challenges of protecting educational and research opportunities while mitigating potential risks to U.S. national and economic security. “Enhanced protection begins with enhanced awareness,” concluded AD Priestap.

The FBI works closely with private partners and government agencies to ensure that federally funded research grants are guarded and protected against unscrupulous overseas enemies. “This elusive, yet deliberate theft of American research funds for the benefit of a foreign country’s economy strikes directly at our own economy. Our economic security is inherently tied to our national security,” said SAC Perrye K. Turner. “Through their exploitative efforts, foreign adversaries reduce U.S. competiveness and deprive victimized U.S. institutions of important revenue that supports furthering scientific advances.”

“As a leading academic medical center and research institution, the Houston Methodist Research Institute strongly values our international collaborations and skilled talent that further our research and serve our patients. When law enforcement agencies like the FBI ask for our help to protect our research environment and our nation, we heed that call. Together, we can ensure that academic institutions like ours continue to innovate, advance medicine, and protect our research interests,” said Dr. Mauro Ferrari, President and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

“We take seriously our responsibility to safeguard intellectual property and other sensitive data associated with the research we conduct across a wide spectrum of disciplines, including aerospace and defense, energy, and biomedical, at a time when the global threat to networks containing these materials has never been greater. I'm grateful for the relationship we have with our federal partners. It’s critical to understanding these threats and sharing information to mitigate risk,” said Dona Cornell, Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs in the University of Houston System.

“Since Texas, especially the Houston area, is an epicenter of world-class and renowned academic and research institutions, it makes perfect sense for FBI Houston to host this groundbreaking briefing between our Counterintelligence Division and regional partners in the private sector,” said SAC Turner. “It’s no secret that U.S. proprietary information has been the target of foreign governments and companies seeking to increase their scientific, military, and economic advantages. By being proactive with our information sharing and creating public awareness, we can better protect the research that makes the Houston region a world leader in these fields.”

“This insightful briefing from the FBI Houston office highlights the challenges and threats that our society faces today. It also reinforces the importance of protecting the hard work of our faculty and research teams at the nation’s top hospital for cancer care,” said Dr. Peter WT Pisters, President of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “We have an obligation to the people of Texas—and to all people facing a cancer diagnosis—to do everything possible to protect our resources and to safely and securely advance our mission to end cancer.”

The FBI actively partners with the public and private sector and provides counterintelligence tools as well as awareness training that helps academia increase their awareness on the threats posed, enabling them to better protect their information and facilities.