GlaxoSmithKline scientist cops a guilty plea in scheme to sell the pharma giant’s drug research in China

More than two years after a senior GlaxoSmithKline scientist in Philadelphia was charged with a plot to steal trade secrets and sell the work in China, Chinese-American chemist Yu Xue has now pleaded guilty to a single count against her.

Looking at a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, Xue told a federal judge that she didn’t believe that she was doing anything wrong in emailing research material to her confederates in China because she didn’t believe she was sharing actual trade secrets.

“A trade secret to me is not publicly available. The patents I sent to them is publicly available,” she said, according to the AP report on the plea.

The judge noted that prosecutors didn’t need to prove that she understood the material included trade secrets, just that Xue knew she was offering a look at confidential research.

As I reported back in January, 2016, Xue had a hard-earned reputation as a top chemist while she was working for GlaxoSmithKline in its Upper Merion, PA, facility. She got her PhD at UNC and her undergraduate degree at Peking University before working on antibody design at the pharma giant.

Xue worked with another GSK scientist, Lucy Xi, in extracting research work over the last four years of her 10-year tenure at the company, according to the original indictment. Tao Li and Yan Mei, both from Nanjing, were also named in the indictment along with Tian Xue of Charlotte, NC. The goal was to sell the work through a startup they had called Renopharma, which the researcher had said she owned a 30% stake in.

Tao Li now has a change of plea hearing coming up, according to the AP.

Xue, better known as Joyce at GSK, will be sentenced in December after prosecutors and the defense argue over the extent of the financial damage she may have caused.

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