Third Former GlaxoSmithKline Scientist Pleads Guilty to Stealing Trade Secrets to Benefit Chinese Pharma Company

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A man raises a Chinese flag next to a Vietnamese flag before a meeting between China's FM Wang and Vietnam's DPM and FM Minh at the Government Office in Hanoi

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Lucy Xi, 44, formerly a resident of Malvern, PA, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal trade secrets from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to benefit a Chinese pharmaceutical company named Renopharma.

Lucy Xi’s co-defendants, Yu Xue, Tao Li and Yan Mei, established Renopharma supposedly to research and develop anti-cancer drugs. In reality, though, the company was used as a repository of information stolen from GSK. Renopharma received financial support and subsidies from the government of China. At the time, Lucy Xi (who was married to Yan Mei) and Yu Xue were employed as a scientists at a GSK facility in Upper Merion, PA, which worked on developing biopharmaceutical products. These products typically cost in excess of $1 billion to research and develop. 

In January 2015, Lucy Xi sent Yan Mei a GSK document which contained confidential and trade secret data and information. 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].”

Yu Xue, her sister, Tian Xue, and Tao Li have all pleaded guilty for their roles in this conspiracy. Yan Mei is a fugitive who currently resides in China. 

“This defendant illegally stole trade secrets to benefit her husband’s company, which was financed by the Chinese government,” said 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.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert J. Livermore and J. Jeanette Kang.

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