Lilly scientists stole $55M in secrets, indictment alleges

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Three former employees of Eli Lilly and Co. allegedly transferred trade secrets that Lilly values at more than $55 million to a competing Chinese drug company, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in federal court.

The indictment charges two Carmel residents, Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li, with seven counts of theft and conspiracy to commit theft. It also describes the actions of a third man, referred to only as Individual #1, who also played a part in the alleged crime.

According to the indictment, Cao and Li, both of whom are scientists with doctoral degrees, e-mailed sensitive information about nine experimental drug research programs at Lilly to Individual #1, who is employed by Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine Co. Ltd., based in China.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett and his deputy, Cynthia Ridgeway, characterized the alleged theft as a crime against the nation.

“If the superseding indictment in this case could be wrapped up in one word, that word would be ‘traitor,’” Ridgeway argued before Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore on Tuesday.

“Stolen trade secrets account for billions of losses for American companies throughout our nation,” Hogsett told reporters outside the federal courthouse downtown.

Cao and Li were arrested Oct. 1 in Indianapolis and appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis—handcuffed and dressed in striped jail uniforms.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Indianapolis sought a judge’s order to continue detaining the two men, arguing that they were flight risks and a “financial danger” to Lilly.

Bill Heath, the head of global product development for Indianapolis-based Lilly, testified at the hearing that the men’s knowledge could help Hengrui duplicate Lilly’s research. Those trade secrets involve drugs being developed to treat cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

“Because of their know-how and their continued access to the information, they would be in a position to direct others how to use the information,” Heath said.

Attorneys for each of the men argued that they should be let go, and that they would surrender their passports while the case against them proceded.

Scott Newman, a former Marion County prosecutor who is representing Li, said the U.S. Attorney’s office had failed to prove its case that the two men needed to be detained further.

“No, the word is not treason; the word is overreach,” Newman said.

Dinsmore eventually ruled that the two men would remain in custody until trial.

Lilly assisted the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in the investigation of Cao, Li and Individual #1. Individual #1 is still under investigation, according to FBI agents, and has not been arrested.

In a statement, Lilly General Counsel Michael Harrington said the trade secrets allegedly stolen all involve early-stage research, and so their alleged theft does “not significantly jeopardize our overall research and development pipeline.”

“Lilly will aggressively pursue every legal remedy to protect and safeguard its scientific discoveries,” Harrington added. “This includes assisting law enforcement in prosecuting and holding accountable those attempting to steal Lilly’s valuable research.”


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  1. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  2. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  3. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.

  4. While if true this auto dealer should be held liable, where was the BMV in all of this? How is it that the dealer was able to get "clean" titles to these vehicles in order to sell them to unsuspecting consumers?

  5. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless [ ] Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. GOD BLESS THE GOVERNORS RESISTING! Count on the gutless judiciary to tie our children down and facilitate the swords being drawn across their throats. Wake Up America ...