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GSK biopharmaceutical trade secrets defendant still "at large"

By Natalie Morrison , 26-Jan-2016
Last updated on 26-Jan-2016 at 11:50 GMT2016-01-26T11:50:33Z

GSK trade secrets defendant still
GSK trade secrets defendant still "at large"

Yan Mei, a defendant charged with stealing GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) trade secrets including biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes, remains at large, a spokesperson for the US Attourney's office told us yesterday.

Mei is one of five people - including two GSK scientists - accused of siphoning trade secrets in a bid to eventually market them through the company Renopharma, according to a US Federal Prosecutors' indictment document filed on January 20th.

The two former GSK scientists, Yu Xue and Lucy Xi, were employed at GSK's research facility in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania. Xi left GSK in November and a GSK spokesperson confirmed that Xue was dismissed on January 6.

Other defendants include Tao Li - who the spokesperson said remains in custody pending a hearing in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania - and Xue's twin sister Tian Xue who was allegedly used to hide proceeds from stolen information.

Both Yu and Tian's arraignment dates are scheduled for Thursday 11th February in Philadelphia, the US Attourney's office spokesperson said.

Yu Xue, Li and Mei founded Renopharma Inc, Nanjing Renopharma td and Shanghai Renopharma in July 2012 and are accused of using the business to sell stolen GSK information.

"If GSK’s competitors received this information, GSK would be injured financially because its competitors would be able to develop the same or similar products to sell," the indictment document states.

GSK said it does not believe the breach has had any material impact on its business or R&D activity in a statement.

"GSK is conducting a full internal review into what occurred, and planning to continue to enhance the multiple layers of data protection that we already have in place," the company spokesperson said today in an email.

Beside theft of trade secrets, the indictment document includes accusations of conspiring to steal trade secrets and commit wire fraud, and conspiring to commit money laundering.

Trade secrets

Information listed among 'the trade secrets and otherwise confidential GSK information' in the indictment document include GSK's specific procedures for producing and developing monoclonal antibodies including step-by-step instructions, humanisation strategy on an antibody, procedures for developing cell cultures used in biopharmaceutical research and downstream process development information on commercial production of a biopharmaceutical product.

Information on development strategy of an anti-HER3 monoclonal antibody similar to breast cancer drug Herceptin, developmental problems with a product dubbed aBCMA and GSK’s procedures for developing and humanizing a monoclonal antibody were also listed.

Yu Xue - otherwise known as Joyce - was the HER3 project co-leader at GSK working on monoclonal antibody design and had previously worked on structure modelling and antibody protein purification, the indictment documents state.

She had access to a wide array of trade secrets and allegedly emailed commercially sensitive GSK information relating to a dozen or more products and numerous GSK processes to her personal email account before forwarding to fellow defendants Tao Li and Yan Mei.

Yu Xue's Arent Fox attorney Peter Zeidenberg told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Yu Xue has pleaded not guilty and will contest the charges and stressed that these are just allegations. 

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