Novartis claims ex-staffer jumped to Takeda with 'thousands' of sensitive files

Novartis believes a former employee of its Egyptian affiliate made off with thousands of files before jumping ship to Takeda. Now, the Swiss pharma giant wants a peek at Takeda’s business records to find out whether any of its confidential information has been used improperly.

In a complaint for discovery filed earlier this week in Massachusetts Superior Court, Novartis accused ex-staffer Khaled Shams Eldin—who’d most recently served as operations lead for cell and gene therapy at Novartis’ Egypt branch—of transferring some 10,000 files to his personal email about a month before his departure from the company on May 31, 2023.

Bloomberg Law, Stat and other publications reported on the case Wednesday.

Based on LinkedIn posts, Shams Eldin appears to have joined Takeda in Egypt in July 2023 as divestment and contract manufacturing implementation lead. Novartis asserts the role is “similar to the work he was performing” at his prior company.

Complicating matters further, Novartis claims its efforts to resolve the matter out of court have been “stonewalled” by Takeda.

“Novartis takes the confidentiality and security of our proprietary company information seriously and will take the necessary steps to protect this information from being disclosed or used inappropriately,” a spokesperson said.

Takeda, for its part, told Fierce Pharma it has communicated “several times” to Novartis that it’s been actively investigating the matter. A spokesperson said the company "has no interest in Novartis’ confidential information.”

Now, Novartis is escalating the situation by seeking a subpoena to look at certain Takeda documents needed to “protect its legitimate business interests and the confidentiality of its information," Novartis said in its complaint. 

The drugmaker wants to know whether Shams Eldin revealed confidential information within Takeda and whether Takeda knew of Shams Eldin’s file transfer. The company also wants to get to the bottom of whether Shams Eldin and Takeda have used that information and whether Takeda has taken any measures to ensure Novartis’ information isn’t being used improperly.

The files include “sensitive, confidential documents” detailing “technical information, sales and financial data, site plans, and additional materials relating to confidential and non-public transactions,” Novartis said in its complaint.

Novartis says it first reached out to Takeda about the situation on Oct. 3. The company claims, however, that Takeda has responded in a matter “that is not consistent with industry customs and has taken an atypical, uncooperative approach” in response to Novartis’ requests.

Still, by Novartis’ own admission, Takeda stressed on multiple occasions this month that it has been looking into to the situation.

Accusations of trade secrets theft aren’t uncommon in the pharmaceutical realm. Earlier this year, for instance, AbbVie, which makes the blockbuster aesthetics product Botox, claimed its rival Revance recruited key employees as part of a strategy to get its hands on proprietary information.

Other high-profile cases centered on proprietary information over the past few years have involved Genentech, GSK and Pfizer.