A third scientist employed by GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets – including the science behind COVID-19 treatments – to boost a competing, state-funded Chinese pharmaceutical company.
Lucy Xi, along with three co-defendants, established the Chinese pharmaceutical company Renopharma with funding from the Chinese Communist Party to supposedly research and develop anti-cancer drugs. The team, however, used the company as a vessel to steal information from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in the United States.
Xi and her colleagues worked at a GSK facility in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania.
In January 2015, she sent co-conspirator Yan Mei a GSK document containing “confidential and trade secret data and information,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ notes the email focused on research into monoclonal antibodies – a lab-produced molecule often administered as a treatment for COVID-19 – despite being sent years before the onset of the virus:
“The document provided a summary of GSK research into monoclonal antibodies at that time. In the body of the e-mail, Lucy Xi wrote, “You need to understand it very well. It will help you in your future business [RENOPHARMA].”
“This defendant illegally stole trade secrets to benefit her husband’s company, which was financed by the Chinese government,” noted U.S. Attorney Williams.
“The lifeblood of companies like GSK is its intellectual property, and when that property is stolen and transferred to a foreign country, it threatens thousands of American jobs and jeopardizes the strategic benefits brought about through research and development. Such criminal behavior must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Pharmaceutical firms like GSK invest staggering amounts of time and money to develop new medications and bring them to market,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.
“When individuals steal valuable trade secrets concerning one of these drugs, it’s a threat both to that firm and beyond. After all, innovation like this propels the U.S. economy. The FBI is committed to enforcing laws that protect the nation’s businesses from such theft. We will not permit American research and development to be scavenged for the benefit of other companies or countries.”