Two GlaxoSmithKline scientists and three co-conspirators were indicted on charges of stealing pharmaceutical trade secrets from the pharma giant to start up their own company in China making the same drugs to fight cancer and other diseases, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Yu Xue, 45, and Lucy Xi, 38, both worked at the GSK location in Upper Merion, Pa. – and sent classified documents out from their work email accounts, prosecutors say.
Tao Li, 42, and Yan Mei, 36, both of China, founded the company Renopharma with Tian Xue, 45, of Charlotte, N.C. The three allegedly took the two scientists’ data, with the idea of using GSK’s scientific research and manufacturing techniques.
“The purpose of these corporations was to market and sell the stolen trade secret(s) and otherwise confidential information,” the indictment alleges.
The five were indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on specific charges of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud.
Yu Xue, of Wayne, Pa., “was regarded as one of the top protein biochemists in the world,” according to the indictment. She was leading the biopharma giant’s research into monoclonal antibodies to combat the overexpressed HER3 receptor, which fuels some cancers.
But beginning in February 2012, she allegedly emailed a series of PowerPoint slides, correspondence and other confidential information from her work account to her personal account, which she then forwarded to Tao Li, Yan Mei, and Tian Xue – her twin sister.
Tian Xue, that twin sister, also allegedly helped launder some of the proceeds from the scheme.
Lucy Xi, the other scientist, apparently emailed the information from her GlaxoSmithKline work account directly to Yan Mei, her husband.
The secrets overall were “potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Peter Zeidenberg, the attorney for Yu Xue, said his client would vigorously defend against the charges.
“Ms. Xue denies these allegations and has pled not guilty. She will contest all of these charges in court,” he said in a statement to Drug Discovery and Development.
All five, including the Renopharma personnel, had doctorates in scientific disciplines.
Yu Xue, the leader of the group, had plans to cash in on her information, according to the court document.
“I have absolute control of (the) company,” she allegedly said. “If we have really good data in the near future, I will quit the job in GSK right away.”
One of the documents presented in the indictment was a Renopharma document outlining GSK developments which noted explicitly, “Be careful, GSK data,” in Mandarin Chinese.
The five face prison terms, fines, restitution and other penalties, if convicted.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery