Pfizer sues long-time employee for allegedly stealing Covid vaccine secrets

Pharmaceutical major alleges employee breached company’s confidentiality agreement

Namita Singh
Thursday 25 November 2021 06:44
<p>This illustration picture taken on 23 November 2020 shows a bottle reading ‘vaccine Covid-19’ and a syringe next to the Pfizer and BioNTech logo</p>

This illustration picture taken on 23 November 2020 shows a bottle reading ‘vaccine Covid-19’ and a syringe next to the Pfizer and BioNTech logo

Pfizer is suing one of its employees for allegedly stealing confidential documents, including those related to its coronavirus vaccine, as she prepared to take up a job with a competing organisation.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in a San Diego court, the pharmaceutical major alleged that one of its associate directors of statistics Chun Xiao Li breached the company’s confidentiality agreement after she uploaded over 12,000 files “from her Pfizer-issued laptop to a personal Google Drive account and onto other personal devices.”

The allegedly misappropriated documents relate to a range of topics, including Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine studies and its recommendation and analysis concerning why the Pfizer and BioNTech relationship was successful compared to other partnerships.

In its lawsuit, Pfizer said that “although Ms Li initially gave the appearance of cooperation, it turns out that [she] instead has misled Pfizer about what took, how she took it, when and why and those files (and possibly others) can be found.”

“She went so far as to provide Pfizer’s security team a decoy laptop, leading Pfizer to believe it was the one she used to download the 12,000 files from her Google Drive.” But the “forensic analyses confirmed it was not,” said the New York-based drug maker.

Pfizer said Ms Li was leaving the company after 15 years of service to work for its competitor Xencor, a California-based clinical-stage company that focuses on treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, on 29 November.

The company has alleged that “Ms Li’s conduct, combined with her apparent imminent plan to begin working at Xencor, makes it highly likely that [she] will disclose and/or use Pfizer’s confidential, proprietary and trade-secret information.”

The court on Tuesday granted Pfizer’s request temporarily blocking Ms Li from using Pfizer’s trade secrets. US District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo further said that the company’s lawyers could review the account and devices on which she could possibly have stored such data.

Ms Li has so far not issued a comment, while Xencor, which is not a defendant in the case, declined to comment on the matter.

The next hearing on the case is listed for 9 December, where the judge will consider a longer injunction.

Additional reporting from the wires

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in