Pune: Ex-employees of Serum Institute booked for stealing vaccine info

Pune: Two former employees of the Serum Institute of India have been booked for breach of trust for allegedly stealing confidential information about a vaccine and filing for patent on behalf of their present employer, police said on Sunday.

The duo, identified as Dr Manoj Kumar Chhikara and Dr Rakesh Rana, who worked as assistant managers (R&D) and Quality Control at the institute respectively, allegedly put their names as researchers in the patent application. Police yesterday registered a case against them under IPC (Indian Penal Code) sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust), and provisions of the Information Technology Act.

No arrests have been made in case yet, they said. The two are now working with Delhi-based MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman Laboratories.

"Both of them were working on the vaccine called 'MenAfriVac', however, in 2011, Rana left the job and in 2013 Chhikara too resigned from the Serum Institute of India," inspector Anjum Bagwan of Hadapsar Police station said.

"The suspects, who were privy to the confidential details of vaccine, filed for patent on the basis of these details on behalf of their present employer and put their names as researchers in the patent application," Bagwan said, adding that, the Serum institute's vaccine too arrived in the market.

However, when the officials from Serum found a plea for patent online with the same details recently, they started investigating and found that both the former employees had used their names as researchers in the patent, he said.

Bagwan said Chhikara left Serum in August 2013 and within four months, he and Rana filed for the patent.

"The matter came to light when the patent application became public recently and the Serum got to know that their details have been used," he added.

The officer said Chhikara and Rana had signed a contract, when they were working on the project at Serum, that they would not divulge information outside but they allegedly violated the term after leaving the Institute. Serum Institute of India, which belongs to the Cyrus Poonawala Group, is a producer of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, BCG, r-hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella vaccines.

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