INDIANAPOLIS - Two former Eli Lilly and Company employees are accused of stealing millions of dollars’ worth of secret research data about key drugs and funneling the information to a Chinese company.
Federal prosecutors say Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li were senior researchers at Lilly who also had ties to a major Chinese drug producer located in Shanghai.
An indictment accuses them of stealing confidential information on drugs in Lilly's research pipeline to treat cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Investigators say the pair illegally directed the trade secrets to the Chinese company, damaging Lilly to the tune of $55 million, although it is unclear how they arrived at that figure.
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said stolen trade secrets cost American companies billions of dollars a year, and it won't be tolerated.
"I hope we've also sent a message to those from foreign countries or others who would steal the trade secrets of our Indiana corporations, a very powerful message, that you will be identified, you will be investigated, and you will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Hogsett said.
A Lilly official identified the drugs at the heart of the case as among the company's prospective crown jewels, although defense attorneys called that evaluation overblown.
It's uncertain what the defendants might have allegedly received. That part of the case is still under investigation.
"The indictment also names as a third party an individual only identified as Individual Number One. And I can say as it relates to his involvement that the investigation is ongoing," Hogsett said.
The two former employees are American citizens, but natives of China who have spent the majority of their lives in that country.
The defendants are being held in federal custody until their trial. No date has been set for that trial.
Their attorneys sought to have them released and cited their history as model citizens with no criminal records, but the judge agreed with federal prosecutors who portrayed both as flight risks, especially given their extensive connections and family in China.
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