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