Chun Xiao Li downloaded thousands of confidential documents before resigning

Pfizer has filed a lawsuit against a former employee, Chun Xiao Li, alleging she stole trade secrets, including documents relating to the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, as well as Bavencio (avelumab) and elranatamab – a marketed and an experimental monoclonal antibody treatment for cancer.

In a brief filed on 23 November in California, US, and published by Bloomberg Law, Pfizer alleges that Li uploaded over 12,000 confidential documents to a private Google Drive account, and subsequently misled the company about her intentions for doing so and where the files had later been downloaded to.

Li had been employed at Pfizer since 2006 as an associate director of statistics in its global product development group, originally in China but since 2016 in its facility in La Jolla, US. On 12 November, while the company was already investigating her behaviour, she submitted her resignation, effective 24 November. Analysis of her Pfizer email account suggested she had received a job offer from Xencor, although Li did not confirm that she was taking up this position.

The company claims it gave her several opportunities to provide explanations for her actions and reveal the location of the missing files. Li declined, and as a result the company has taken legal action. Pfizer is seeking a temporary restraining order over Li as well as financial relief of its costs.