Web Date: June 6, 2012
Former WuXi PharmaTech Employee Convicted
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. It was the first theft of WuXi intellectual property in the firm’s 11-year history.
According to Chinese media reports, the unidentified WuXi assistant researcher stole the Merck pharmaceutical compounds to make money. He 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, though the sentence was suspended because he is a first-time offender.
In a statement to the press, Ge Li, chief executive officer of WuXi, would only identify the victim of the theft as “a customer.” He added that, “We regret that one of our employees committed a crime on our premises.” He also noted that the breach of the company’s security protocols was an isolated case and only involved sample amounts of two patented compounds whose chemical structures are available in patent filings.
WuXi, Li said, is reviewing its security measures. To prevent a repeat offense, Li said, the firm is strengthening oversight of its facilities, intensifying employee training, and increasing regular and unannounced laboratory and office inspections.
Merck, which was unavailable for comment at press time, initially got wind of the conspiracy in March 2011, according to the Chinese reports. At the time, Merck 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.
The pharmaceutical firm subsequently arranged to purchase additional samples and contacted WuXi, which confirmed samples were missing. The press accounts are not clear on exactly when the police became involved, but the WuXi employee was arrested in January.
Merck and WuXi are not the only victims of errant employees stealing intellectual property. Last month, former Sanofi scientist Yuan Li was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $131,000 in restitution by the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. She was convicted of stealing Sanofi compounds and offering them for sale through a website in which she had a financial interest (C&EN, May 21, page 7).
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