AcceGen Biotechnology

In December of 2018, our research group at ***** ***** ********** ******* sought a company that could generate two cell lines with targeted gene deletions. Via Google, we located the website of “Accegen Biotechnology” (hereinafter “Accegen”) (website: www.accegen.com). Accegen’s website appeared detailed, professional and legitimate. One of our researchers therefore emailed the company at the email address provided, [email protected], and began corresponding with an Accegen Project Manager, Yelena Lee.I subsequently also corresponded with Yelena via email regarding technical details and prices for the cell lines. Yelena was generally prompt in responding, and she seemed knowledgeable on the topic. *** and Accegen ultimately negotiated a project price totaling $10,177.50 for both cell lines. Yelena confirmed receipt of ***** purchase on January 11, 2019.Prior to starting work on our project, Accegen demanded payment in full, which was provided on or about February 14, 2019. Accegen projected that the project would be completed in 8-12 weeks from the date of payment, and they were to provide bi-weekly or monthly reports. By April 11, 2019, we had received no update, so I reached out to Yelena. At that time, she advised that the lab was selecting cells, and she would update me. Upon further inquiry on May 8th, Yelena provided an identical response. When I demanded more specific details, she assured me that the lab would prepare a report, which I never received. She continued to send essentially copy-and-paste duplicative responses to my further inquiries. I also attempted to follow up by phone to no avail.Subsequent responses from Yelena were somewhat nonsensical and led us to believe that this was a scam business operation. The following is exemplary:Thanks for your kind message. We are really sorry for the delay regarding your project. Actually, we selected the positive clones last time. However, it turns out it is the false positive clones after sequencing. Our scientist redid the transfection last time and they are selecting the new clones this time. We also want to finish your project as soon as possible. However, you should understand there is risk for the experiment. You can not guarantee it will be positive one time, right? I hope you can understand our situation. We are trying our best to process your project now. Please don’t worry, we will finish your project in the end. We are a company, we have so many customers here, $10,000 is not much money in our side, we will not charge your money and don’t do the services for you. So I think you should trust us. Please don’t worry, I will push our lab to proceed your project in priority. Hope we can give you the positive result soon.To date, I have been unable to obtain any significant additional information from Yelena, nor have I been able to reach her by phone. While I did ask for references of other researchers/companies who have used Accegen, I have been unable to verify even one such company. Yelena advised that she would provide references to ***** legal counsel as well, but she has failed to do so. ***** General Counsel’s Office (OGC) has contacted Accegen by phone, as well as a parent company named Arrakistek. OGC believes that the individual who answered was the same person at both companies. She went by different names each time, including Yelena, Joy and Flora. Each time, she claimed to have no information and refused to allow OGC to speak to anyone else at the company, providing a variety of excuses.As of the submission of this complaint, we have received no product from Accegen. Both OGC and my principle investigator have demanded a full refund for the project, which Yelena has refused, despite acknowledging that *** has a right to cancel the contract per the condition that Accegen timely complete the project, and it has well exceeded the timeline.Below are some additional important details that OGC and/or I have discovered:1)Accegen, ArrakisTek, and MuseChem all seem to be the same entity. They each have websites that superficially appear to be legitimate but lack any depth to the content/information once you review more closely. They claim their products are superior and cost efficient without backing this up in a substantive way.Furthermore, Accegen has links to social media pages at the bottom of their website, but these are also highly suspicious. For example, their Twitter page (@accegen) was setup in August 2017, and all of the posts are from the 28th of August and the 28th of September 2017. They have a single follower. Their Facebook and LinkedIn pages both appear to have been shut down, despite the link still being on their website.2)I had a colleague in my lab contact Accegen to try to find additional information about other researchers who used their services (using a personal email address not linked to our **********). He received a response from someone going by the name of “Sofia” that eventually provided citations to three journal articles she claimed as references for the company, all of which were from apparently 100% Chinese research groups. I was unable to view one of these due to a paywall. Another one of them mentioned “Accegen” but referred to a service/technical application very different from what Accegen advertises on its website. The final paper stated that a cell line had been obtained from Accegen but had writing flaws throughout that led us to believe it may not be a legitimate article. Checking with one of my Chinese colleagues, I was told that the institution this research group was from had a very poor reputation.3)Some or all of the phone numbers listed on the website are personal cell phones that are never answered, or there is no voicemail. None of them state the name of the company or the person whose number you have called. Throughout the 6 months of corresponding with “Yelena”, I attempted to call multiple phone numbers associated with the company (as well as ArrakisTek and MuseChem) during regular business hours but did not once get an answer. Some of the numbers simply kept ringing, others cut off without a voicemail, and others had a voicemail that just repeated the phone number without mentioning anything about a company. One even stated that the “mobile number” was not available. This is highly suspicious as these numbers are listed all over the company website and email signature of Yelena. I was very surprised that our attorney’s call was answered when she tried the same number, and I wonder if my calls were being ignored intentionally due to my email correspondence.4)A Wells Fargo Bank account number and routing number are provided on the project proposal – this could potentially be used to track down whomever has our money.I have substantial documentation pertaining to the foregoing, including all of my and OGC’s correspondence with Accegen. I would be happy to provide any and all such information.

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