Scientist charged with stealing secrets from Merck

A former director of medical and scientific affairs at a New Jersey pharmaceutical company was arrested today on charges of stealing and illegally transmitting trade secrets.

Shafat A. Quadri, 57, of North Potomac, Maryland, is charged by complaint with one count of theft of trade secrets and one count of unauthorized transmission of trade secrets. He is made his initial appearance by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor and was released on $100,000 unsecured bond.

According to U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig, documents filed in this case and statements made in court “Company 1” is a based in New Jersey and is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, creating vaccines, medicines and consumer healthcare products. Company 1 is incorporated in New Jersey and maintains email servers in New Jersey.

In October 2019, Company 1 contacted the FBI to report suspicious activity by Quadri, who had been employed there since 2015 as director of medical and scientific affairs, immune oncology.

The defendant’s LinkedIn profile shows he was employed in that position at Merck during the same period. Merck is a leading global biopharmaceutical company that has been in business for more than a century, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases

Company 1’s global immuno-oncology department specializes in research and development related to the diagnosis and treatment of more than 30 cancer types with biopharmaceutical products.

Quadri had access to sensitive intellectual property of the company, including research and other trade secrets. He remained at the company through Sept. 30, 2019.

Company 1 reported that an internal investigation revealed that before he left in September 2019, Quadri copied and removed thousands of files containing Company 1’s proprietary information, including research protocols, compound data, strategic plans.

Quadri used unauthorized USB devices and personal email accounts to copy, transfer, and retain proprietary information from Company 1. Some documents that were copied and removed were outside of Quadri’s area of work responsibility. Quadri was not authorized to keep or transfer any sensitive or proprietary documents. 

A subsequent review of Quadri’s work-issued computer further revealed the theft and transmission of Company 1 trade secrets, including:

  • Quadri used his Company 1 email account to send Company 1 proprietary documents to private email accounts used by Quadri. At least twelve of Company 1’s documents were sent to Quadri’s private email addresses, some of which contained proprietary information related to an immunotherapy drug that helps fight certain cancers and is identified as Company 1’s leading oncology asset.
  • Quadri used his Company 1 email account to send three of Company 1’s documents containing proprietary information to an email address used by Quadri and controlled by Quadri’s subsequent employer (Company 2), one of Company 1’s competitors. At least one of these documents related to research in the pre-indication stage, which could cause Company 1 significant loss as competitors would not have knowledge of these development plans.

The count of theft of trade secrets charge carries a maximum potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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