Pharma Researcher Guilty of IP Theft

Companies collectively spend hundreds of billions every year on research and development. Ultimately this investment can lead to increased revenue, patented products, and a positive company reputation. Even aspiring, independent inventors know they could strike it rich with a great idea.

Organizations that possess valuable intellectual property must naturally share it with employees involved in the manufacturing or administration of products and services that rely on it. Unfortunately this creates vulnerabilities that unscrupulous competitors can exploit. As a result, employee theft of trade secrets on behalf of competitors remains a serious problem.

The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) knows first-hand how vulnerable companies can be to the theft of intellectual property by trusted employees. The theft occurred nearly a decade ago, but justice has only recently caught up with the perpetrators.

Pharmaceutical Intrigue

Beginning in 2012 in Upper Merion Township, Pennsylvania, two scientists employed by GSK—Lucy Xi and Yu Xue—began stealing information. The two GSK scientists worked with Tao Li and Yan Mei, who were part of a scheme involving a company named Renopharma, based in Nanjing, China.

Renopharma was established, supposedly, to research and develop drugs to help fight cancer. In reality, the company served merely as a repository for stolen GSK documents, which could be used to make and patent competing drugs for sale. Renopharma was also found to have been backed financially by the Chinese government.

Lucy Xi was married to Yan Mei, and in 2015 emailed him a document summarizing GSK research on monoclonal antibodies, along with the message, “You need to understand it very well. It will help you in your future business.” The group was caught, however, and the Justice Department announced cases against those involved in the Renopharma conspiracy in 2016.

Yan Mei fled to China and has been recognized by the United States government as a fugitive. However, Tao Li and Yu Xue, along with her sister Tian Xue, have pleaded guilty to their parts in this scheme. On January 3, 2022, Lucy Xi also pleaded guilty to her role in benefiting Renopharma.

Reducing the Risk of Data Breach Complications

This incident is one of many the United States government views as an issue in trade secret and intellectual property theft involving China. GSK invested time and money into developing its products, which were instantly provided to a Chinese company, sparing it years and billions of dollars in research.

Although the incident occurred years ago, the guilty pleas are a reminder of the dangers companies face in trade secret theft. SecuDrive has for more than 3 years specialized in creating innovative data security solutions that prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.

SecuDrive portable external storage devices are FIPS-validated and hardware-encrypted for maximum protection of data in transit within and outside organizations.

Write us at to speak to a data security expert about how SecuDrive can help you prevent the theft of intellectual property and other business-critical information.

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