Swiss court keeps ex-GSK scientist's brother behind bars as US pushes to extradite him on R&D theft charges
A Swiss criminal court is keeping Chinese scientist Gongda Xue in jail for now as US officials look to extradite him for his role in a family enterprise that stole more than a half billion dollars in drug secrets and transferred them to China.
Local news sources in Switzerland report that the criminal court rejected the scientist’s appeal, saying that a potential 20-year prison sentence makes him a clear flight risk.
The US has been after Gongda Xue for his alleged involvement in a criminal conspiracy with his sister, Yu “Joyce” Xue, a GSK scientist in Upper Merion, PA, who pled guilty to one count of transferring the pharma giant’s trade secrets to a company they had created called Renopharma in Nanjing. That biotech was subsidized by the Chinese government.
According to US charges, Yu Xue stole secrets and transferred them to her brother in Switzerland, where he did work on them at the Friedrich Miescher Institute. Reuters confirmed with the institute that he had been a post-doc there. From there the secrets went to China, where they were marketed by an alleged accomplice.
Yu Xue’s guilty plea last summer came with the caveat that she never believed she was stealing actual secrets, saying that the information on patents was all publicly available.
Yu Xue leaves court in August 2018. Matt Rourke, AP Images
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The FBI arrested another Chinese scientist, Tao Li, in 2016 and found “a number of GSK documents containing trade secret and confidential information” on his computer regarding products under development, research data as well as research, manufacturing and development processes. He also pled guilty to one charge.
The conspiracy case that US officials made against Yu Xue came just ahead of several recent instances where Chinese scientists were expelled from their jobs at MD Anderson and Emory for misconduct — failing to disclose research and business ties in China. In the most recent case, Emory fired two scientists born in China — naturalized US citizens Xiaojiang Li and Shihua Li — and shut down their lab, ordering several post-docs in the lab back to China.
The scientists, though, have fired back, saying that the university had acted improperly and that their ties to Chinese research organizations were disclosed.
There may well be more of these cases coming up, as the US government and the NIH have put universities on notice that they’re being vigilant about losing important and expensive research information to the Asian powerhouse.