Five, Including Two GlaxoSmithKline Scientists, Charged in Scheme to Steal Biopharma Secrets from GSK
Published: Feb 02, 2016
January 20, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
PHILADELPHIA – Five people have been charged in a scheme to steal biopharmaceutical trade secrets from GlaxoSmithKline , including two GSK scientists, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced this afternoon.
Following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged Yu Xue, 45, of Wayne, Pa., Tao Li, 42, of Nanjing, China; Yan Mei, 36, of Nanjing, China; Tian Xue, 45, of Charlotte, N.C. and Lucy Xi, 38, of West Lake Village, Calif. with conspiracy to steal trade secrets, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud. Xue and Xi were scientists working at GSK’s research facility in Upper Merion, Pa., according to the indictment. According to the indictment, the defendants engaged in a scheme to steal trade secrets related to GSK research data, procedures, and manufacturing processes for biopharmaceutical products. Many of the biopharmaceutical products targeted were designed to treat cancer or other serious diseases, the indictment said. One product under development was a monoclonal antibody designed to link to HER3 receptors on human body cells.
Yu Xue, also known as “Joyce,” according to the indictment, worked as a research scientist developing various biopharmaceutical products for GSK facility from June 2006 until January of this year. According to the indictment she emailed various GSK trade secrets to her confidants and also downloaded proprietary information to a thumb drive. Information Xue allegedly stole from GSK included the protein sequences needed to construct the HER3 product. The indictment calls Yu Xue one of the “top protein biochemists” in the world.
Lucy Xi worked as a scientist at GSK from July 14, 2008 until Nov. 3, 2015. While at GSK, Lucy Xi e-mailed trade secrets and otherwise confidential information to her husband Yan Mei.
The individuals planned to use the GSK proprietary information to launch their own company and sell the products in China. The U.S. attorney’s office said Yu Xue, Tao Li, and Yan Mei set up a corporation in China called Renopharma to carry out their plan.
According to the indictment, GSK typically spent in excess of $1 billion to research and develop each biopharmaceutical product.
The indictment cites GSK’s “code of conduct,” which says GSK information could not be released externally unless it had been “approved for external release.” GSK’s employees were forbidden from using proprietary information for other business or personal activities from which they, or others connected with them, might personally benefit, the indictment said.
In an attempt to cover their tracks, the five agreed to title the proceeds of the new company in the name of Yu Xue’s sister, Tian Xue, and other family members.
If convicted of all charges, each defendant faces a possible prison term, fines, restitution, special assessments and a term of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The Legal Intelligencer of Pennsylvania reported the defendants were arrested Jan. 5.