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Press Release

Former GlaxoSmithKline Scientist Pleads Guilty to Stealing Trade Secrets to Benefit Chinese Pharmaceutical Company

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that Dr. Yu Xue, 48, of Wayne, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal trade secrets from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to benefit a Chinese pharmaceutical company named Renopharma.

Dr. Xue and two of her associates, Dr. Tao Li and Dr. Yan Mei, created Renopharma in Nanjing, China.  Renopharma intended to research and develop anti-cancer drugs and received financial support and subsidies from the government of China.  At the time, Xue was employed as a scientist at GSK working on developing biopharmaceutical products.  These products typically cost in excess of $1 billion to research and develop. 

Xue sent a substantial number of GSK’s scientific documents, some of which contained GSK trade secrets, to Li and Mei at Renopharma in China.  The data contained information regarding multiple biopharmaceutical products under development, GSK research data, and GSK processes regarding the research, development, and manufacturing of biopharmaceutical products.  Xue typically sent the documents via e-mail or transferred the documents via portable electronic storage devices.  Xue sent these documents to Li and Mei with the intention to steal GSK’s information for their economic benefit.  On January 5, 2016, the FBI arrested Li and seized his computer on which they found a number of GSK documents containing trade secret and confidential information which he had received from Xue.

“Dr. Xue used her position at GSK to steal valuable trade secrets to benefit a company bankrolled by the Chinese government,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain.  “We cannot allow U.S. citizens or foreign nationals to steal sensitive business information and hand it over to competitors in other countries.  This sort of economic warfare presents a danger to our economic security, jeopardizes America’s position as a global leader in innovation, and will not be tolerated.”

“Trade secrets are the cornerstone of American innovation and a driver of the nation's economy,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.  “When a corporation spends billions of dollars developing products and processes, the theft of valuable intellectual property is a clear threat to the company.  When stolen trade secrets stand to benefit a foreign economic rival, it’s a threat to our country, as well.  The FBI will continue to work vigorously to combat intellectual property theft and bring those responsible to justice.”

Yu Xue is scheduled to be sentenced before the Honorable Joel H. Slomsky.  The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert J. Livermore and Katherine E. Driscoll.

Updated December 20, 2018