Monday, June 11, 2012

WuXi employees steals compounds, offers them for sale

From this week's C&EN, an article about a WuXi employee in Shanghai from Marc Reisch:
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.
I'm really rather skeptical that this is the first time that IP has been stolen from WuXi (or its customers.) Also, does this mean that large pharmaceutical companies need to be trolling the backwaters of the web, looking for structures of their proprietary compounds? 

I have long thought that it is interesting that there is very little active industrial espionage in the established pharmaceutical industry. That Abbott employees do not have to fend off Merck agents while taking their documents to the shredder bin suggests that there is simply not enough benefit to make such measures worthwhile. One wonders if, in China, such espionage efforts might just be worth the trouble? 


  1. Does this surprise me? No, it doesn't.
    All the big pharma with a presence in China at the expense of western jobs will regret their decisions to move there. These high managers have and are continuing to screw things up. But they won't suffer when the thing goes down the tubes, the normal work force will.
    They (the high ups) should all be put against the wall and made to pay for their crass stupidity.

  2. These pharma companies are asking for it. I hope China clean them out.

  3. This is what happens when dumb managers over generalize and try to force fit what works in some tech firms to pharma. You can't expect management techniques which work on products with 6mth development cycles to apply to pharmaceuticals which have 10-12 year development cycles!

    Trade secrets ARE the pharmaceutical industry. Somehow business leaders don't realize this important point and think it is good business to cut costs by outsourcing to the cheapest CRO they can find in China. Ever bother to think Wuxi and others may be cheap for a reason? They supply discounted compounds in exchange for pharma companies' valuable trade secrets!!!!