Pfizer says Regor Therapeutics was conceived with stolen data

Pfizer is accusing two former employees of stealing company secrets and using them to develop Regor Therapeutics, according to a lawsuit filed by the company. Fellow pharma giant Eli Lilly is also involved in the allegations, as they recently partnered with Regor in a $1.5 billion deal. 

In 2018, Xiayang Qiu and Ming Zhong left Pfizer and founded Regor Therapeutics. According to Pfizer’s complaint, the duo started Regor in May 2018 — one month before leaving Pfizer in June 2018. In 2019, they filed a patent for a diabetes-and-obesity treatment that was “strikingly similar” to the one developed by Pfizer, according to the complaint. Pfizer was tipped off to the activity after the patent application was published in 2020.

Following the publication of the patent application, Pfizer conducted computer forensic analyses and found activity confirming misappropriated confidential information, Bloomberg Law reported. An internal investigation found that Zhong did not return his company phone to Pfizer upon his departure, returning another phone instead. The company phone is yet to be recovered, Pfizer said. Zhong also downloaded various confidential documents and deleted others, the complaint alleged.

Pfizer also accused Zhong and Qiu of stripping a presentation containing sensitive information about a new GLP-1 drug program of confidentiality designations and uploading it to a personal cloud-storage account.

The case involves other major players, like Eli Lilly, who announced a strategic collaboration to discover and develop novel therapies for metabolic disorders with Regor in December. According to the deal, Eli Lilly will pay Regor $50 million up front with potential for $1.5 billion in future payments, contingent on meeting certain milestones and via royalty payments.

Pfizer is accusing Regor of using the stolen data to get ahead and secure investors and develop a treatment more quickly than they could have without it.

At Pfizer, Qiu focused on the discovery of therapeutic compounds and their interactions with proteins in the body. Zhong was the director of clinical outsourcing and worked with third-party vendors. The two overlapped on analysis of a key receptor in the diabetes-and-obesity treatment. The pair first began exchanging emails about their dissatisfaction with Pfizer in 2017, where they began plotting to create a competing business, Pfizer said.

Eli Lilly has yet to comment on how the lawsuit will affect its partnership with Regor going forward.