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Intellectual Property: Former WuXi PharmaTech employee convicted of theft

Court finds that drug compounds were stolen, offered for sale over the Internet

by Marc S. Reisch
June 10, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 24

A former employee of Chinese contract research firm WuXi PharmaTech has been convicted of stealing samples of several proprietary Merck & Co. compounds and offering them for sale over the Internet through a broker. WuXi says it was the first theft of intellectual property in the firm’s 11-year history.

According to Chinese media reports, the unidentified WuXi assistant researcher was sentenced on May 22 by a Chinese court to pay restitution of $45,000. He also was sentenced to an 18-month prison term, although the sentence was suspended because he is a first-time offender.

“We regret that one of our employees committed a crime on our premises,” says WuXi CEO Ge Li, identifying the victim of the theft only as “a customer.” Li also notes that the breach of the company’s security protocols is an isolated case and involves only samples of two patented compounds whose chemical structures are available in patent filings.

A Merck spokesman tells C&EN only that Merck “believes the situation has been satisfactorily resolved.” According to Chinese reports, the pharmaceutical maker initially got wind of the conspiracy in March 2011 when it discovered a website that was offering to sell MK-3102, an oral dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor then under development as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Charles E. Miller, a senior counsel in the intellectual property group of law firm Dickstein Shapiro, says that as research costs rise in China, U.S. firms should think twice about outsourcing to a country where intellectual property protection is not as stringent as in the U.S.


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