According to a statement released by the US Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, five individuals – including two GlaxoSmithKline employees – have been charged with attempting to steal trade secrets from the biopharma giant. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation revealed a number of felonies including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to steal trade secrets, conspiracy to commit money laundering, theft of trade secrets and wire fraud.
According to the indictment, Yu Xue and Lucy Xi were scientists at the GlaxoSmithKline research center In Upper Merion Pennsylvania. The accused allegedly participated in a plan to steal GlaxoSmithKline’s research data, manufacturing processes and procedures for specific biopharmaceutical products.
The trade secrets targeted included a number of drugs designed to treat cancer, as well as an experimental monoclonal antibody used to link HER3 receptors to human cells. While working as a research scientist for GlaxoSmithKline from June 2006 until January 2016, Yu Xue emailed confidential information to her coconspirators and downloaded protein sequences necessary to make the experimental HER3 product onto a thumb drive.
The other accused former employee of GlaxoSmithKline, Lucy Xi, worked at the company from July 2008 to November of last year. She is accused of emailing trade secrets to her husband, Yan Mei, during her employ at the biopharma company.
The indictment states that the accused intended to use the stolen information to set up their own company and market the products in China. They had already launched a company in China called Renopharma, in order to continue with their plans.
GlaxoSmithKline reportedly spent over $1 billion in research and development on each of the stolen drugs. According to the company’s code of conduct, employees are strictly forbidden from using any of GlaxoSmithKline’s proprietary information for personal or business use.
The five defendants named family members as recipients of the profits generated by Renopharma in order to launder the money and evade authorities. If the conspirators are convicted, they face a possible prison sentence, fines and restitution.