Allegedly stole and sold on confidential material related to GSK's biopharmaceutical products
Two scientists working at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Pennsylvania, US have been indicted for conspiracy to commit fraud and allegedly stealing confidential material related to the pharmaceutical firm's biopharmaceutical products.
The indictment names five people, including scientists Yu Xue and Lucy Xi. If convicted of all charges, each defendant faces punishments that could include fines and possible prison sentences.
The indictment claims that Yu Xue, who worked as a research scientist at GSK's research facility in Upper Merion, PA, and had access to 'a wide array of GSK trade secret information', emailed 'GSK trade secret and otherwise confidential information relating to a dozen or more products and numerous GSK processes' from her email account to her personal account, and then forwarded that information to Tao Li, Yan Mei and others.
She also used her computer to download trade secret information from GSK's network to a USB stick in order to send this information to these people.
Yu Tue, Tao Li and Yan Mei founded Renopharma in July 2012, allegedly to market and sell the stolen trade secret and otherwise confidential information.
In 2006, Yu Xue signed a Conditions of Employment agreement with GSK and agreed to abide by GSK's Code of Conduct. She agreed that she would not engage in 'any activity in competition with or against the best interests of [GSK] and avoid all conflicts of interest with [GSK] or the appearance thereof', the indictment claims.
Yu Xue did not have authorisation from GSK to transmit the trade secret or otherwise confidential material outside of GSK, the indictment says. She also did not have permission from GSK to store the trade secret or otherwise confidential material on her personal e-mail account or home computer.
Tao Li and Yan Mei worked in China to market and sell the stolen trade secret and otherwise confidential information on behalf of Renopharma, the indictment claims. It also claims that Tao Li's role in the conspiracy also included raising funds for Renopharma from various sources, such as private investors, government agencies, and universities.
Yan Mei's wife, Lucy Xi, worked at GSK with Yu Xue during the conspiracy, the indictment said.
Jens Puhle, UK Managing Director of Access Rights Management firm 8MAN, commented: 'The attempted theft of millions of dollars worth of secret information from GlaxoSmithKline 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.
He added: '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.
'Organisations must ensure that all sensitive data is locked down with strict access rights management controls, and accessible only on a need-to-know basis. With even the most senior employees still posting a potential risk, companies need to have advanced measures in place that will alert them whenever key files are accessed. By sounding the alarm the moment any suspicious behaviour is detected, such as accessing files out of hours or offsite, they can catch thieves before it is too late.'