Pfizer has filed a lawsuit against two former researchers, claiming they stole the pharmaceutical giant’s trade secrets and other confidential information before leaving the company, then used the information to set up their own competing firm.The researchers, both PhD chemists, are Xiayang Qiu and Min Zhong. Both worked in drug discovery and development for Pfizer or predecessor companies for more than 20 years before resigning from Pfizer in June 2018.According to the complaint, filed in Connecticut federal court, the two chemists were dissatisfied with their prospects at Pfizer and began scheming in late 2017 to leave the company and start their own firm. In the early months of 2018, the complaint says, they began amassing documents about Pfizer drug discovery programs, including compounds in development and other company secrets.With other unnamed defendants, they formed their own company, Regor Therapeutics. They also formed a sister company, QILU Regor Therapeutics, with funding provided by the Chinese drug company Qilu Pharmaceutical.In an email, a Regor media contact, Lauren Xuan, says the company is aware of the Pfizer suit. “We believe that the lawsuit is entirely meritless and will defend ourselves vigorously,” she writes......Pfizer’s complaint says both Qiu and Zhong had been working in different capacities on small-molecule GLP-1 receptor agonist technology when they left the company. “Zhong and Qiu could have continued to build on this important, life-saving work at Pfizer for years to come,” the complaint says, “but they made a different choice: to take Pfizer’s trade secrets and confidential information unlawfully to launch a competing company.”Among the documents they took, the complaint alleges, are documents describing the co-crystal structure for a Pfizer small molecule interacting with the GLP-1 receptor, a trade secret that Pfizer says it spent millions of dollars to develop. “A competitor in possession of that information could, among other things, design and screen for active GLP-1 receptor agonist compounds on an expedited basis,” the complaint says.
The complaint said a confidential document, stripped of Pfizer confidentiality marks, was uploaded to a personal account two months before Zhong and Qiu left. They later used this information in a new presentation “about a revolutionary new diabetes and obesity drug” that Pfizer said detailed confidential information from its GLP-1 program.
That seems like not a great set of facts for the Regor team - will be interesting to see what happens with this case.
This is the main problem with continuing a research program from your old job: Whether or not you took highly confidential data (like X-ray of cocrystal of a ligand in target protein active site), your public presentation to the investors for the new company will look remarkably related to what you did in the old job. You can't do fly-by-night while fundraising and promoting. So you are inviting an IP theft litigation the moment you have something interesting, and the more outgoing you are promoting your new venture, the more likely you will get sued. A really smart scoundrel would act through cut-out shell companies, academic research groups and business consulting agreement, and of course the key persons cannot be the same. But setting up an elaborate scheme like this needs more money and more contacts.ReplyDelete