GSK scientists 'stole' biopharma secrets
Pennsylvania | 22 January 2016

Two scientists have been accused of stealing biopharmaceutical trade secrets from GlaxoSmithKline with the intention of selling them in China.

Research data for biopharmaceutical products, many of which are designed to treat cancer and other serious diseases, were downloaded by the scientists and emailed to co-conspirators in China, according to the charges filed by federal prosecutors on 20 January.

The Pennsylvania indictment includes charges of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud.

The scientists and their co-conspirators could face prison terms if found guilty.

According to the indictment, Yu Xue and Lucy Xi worked as scientists at GlaxoSmithKline’s research facility in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania.

Xi and Yu Xue, who was described in the indictment as “one of the top protein biochemists in the world”, allegedly downloaded trade secrets from GlaxoSmithKline computers and emailed them to Tao Li and Yan Mei, who founded Renopharma in China for the express purpose of marketing and selling the stolen information.

The fifth conspirator and Yu Xue’s sister, Tian Xue, and other family members were allegedly going to receive the proceeds in a bid to hide the crime.

Yu Xue has reportedly pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Jens Puhle, UK managing director at internal security company 8MAN, said the indictment “underlines the need for constant vigilance within the pharmaceutical industry”.

“The enormous value of secret research and other intellectual property to rivals and criminals means the pharmaceutical sector is particularly vulnerable to both external hackers and unscrupulous insiders.”

“The fact that one of those charged with the conspiracy is a senior researcher trusted with access to top secret research demonstrates that organisations cannot be too cautious when it comes to protecting their data. We have seen examples in the financial sector where even senior executives require permission from the chairman before using a USB stick on the network, making data theft almost impossible.”

Author: Mark Dugdale

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