From The Editor | May 20, 2024

Assassination By Implication? Interview With WuXi AppTec (Part 2)


By Louis Garguilo, Chief Editor, Outsourced Pharma

Detective on street-GettyImages-1389395483

“As you read these accusations, it’s like an attempted death by a thousand implications.”

-- Rick Connell, former Pfizer supply-chain executive and current WuXi AppTec President for the US and Europe.

In part one of my exclusive interview with Connell, he offered personal insights on his organization’s being targeted by the BIOSECURE Act.

Here he continues with a line-by-line refutation of the proposed legislation. (NOTE: Congress continues to alter language in the Act, and has not passed a final version. Earlier editorial analysis is below; I will continue to report on this situation affecting global development and manufacturing outsourcing.)

No Causes For The Clauses

Rick Connell
(24) WuXi AppTec presents a national security threat to the United States.

This is the blanket (and as-of-yet unsubstantiated) statement that leads what appears like an appended section to the legislation. Connell responded to this directly in part one. I ask him to go directly to all the clauses supposedly supporting (24).

(25) According to PRC [People’s Republic of China] press, WuXi AppTec has sponsored Military-Civil Fusion events in the PRC.

Connell reply:

“We are a global company; we operate in Asia, Europe, the U.S. In all those regions we attend scientific, industry, and community events. None of these events are an endorsement of a government, political party, or any kind of military-civilian apparatus.

For example, here at our location in Boston, we attend events sponsored by the Boston Fire Department, the Boston Police Department, and others with government officials.

We can only guess this particular reference in the BIOSECURE Act may be similar to a situation where we are located in a science park, and attend park-related functions or events.

There’s a park-wide fire-extinguisher training by the Boston Fire Department here. Of course we have employees take pictures as part of that community, and that becomes the footnote of some 'military- or government-civilian engagement'?" 

(26) WuXi AppTec has received investments from a “Military-Civil Integration Selected Hybrid Securities Investment Fund’.

Connell reply:

“We are also a publicly listed company. Anybody, whether we like it or not, can invest in our company. These are not our “endorsements.” Individuals and institutions can buy stock, sell stock, issue a press release, just like with any other publically listed company.

I think the implication is that somehow WuXi AppTec had an unusual benefit from an investment, which is, frankly, ludicrous – there has been no “special” investor of any kind gaining access to our board, or accessing any confidential data of any kind.

We've got some 200,000 investors in WuXi AppTec. This unfounded accusation is simply wrong.” 

(27) According to PRC press, WuXi AppTec has granted awards to PLA researchers and invited PLA institutes to participate in the selection process of company awards.

Connell reply:

“Again, wherever in the world we operate, our employees will engage in our communities.

For example, some of our labs in Natick, Masachussetts, are involved with a high school science fair; there's also a college science fair. We are invited as professional scientists to do those kind of things. We want to foster basic research and encourage young people, men and women, minorities, to enter science and our industry.

Our company in China fosters these scientific award programs – trivial amounts of award money, but they help provide with public relations for our role as a leading research, development and manufacturing company in China.

And we formed a committee of scientific experts that give out awards.

It happens of the 300 awards we've given out, some of the researchers work at something like the equivalent of a veterans' hospital doing clinical research, etc. So the assertion here is that we're somehow funding the PLA by giving out awards to foster basic research!

We do the same here in communities in our U.S. locations. We are encouraging kids to get interested in science.

There was never any consideration of age, race, sex, religion, political orientation, or anything else. The implications in the BIOSECURE Act are egregious, and frankly, offensive.” 

Editor’s Note: I refer Connell to a related editorial, Nothing To See Here! Just Big Pharma Investments In China,  and ask him this question:

Would you say your activities are analogous to when Western Big Pharma partake in community activities in China?

"Yes, nothing different,” he replies emphatically.

“All multinationals that operate in China are encouraged to give back. All multinational companies bring that community and employee engagement orientation. These are examples of what our biotech and pharma companies do around the world to motivate young people to join science, and foster understanding of who we are and what we stand for.

Again, to have that twisted to meet some political agenda is unfortunate.

But we will continue to have, fror example, our cancer walks in St. Paul, book drives in Atlanta, and other events around the world. That’s what our employees and our company's values tell us to do.” 

(28) Chris Chen, CEO of WuXi Biologics, was previously an adjunct professor at the PLA’s [People’s Liberation Army] Academy of Military Medical Sciences.

Connell reply:

“First off, WuXi Biologics is a separate company, independently owned and operated.”

Here I interject:

I’d suggest, however, this is because both companies – AppTec and Biologics – start with 'WuXi,' and that draws people to the conclusion of a relationship.

“Okay, I certainly understand, so let’s look at that,” replies Connell.

“Dr. Ge Li, the founder of both companies, is a serial entrepreneur. Yes, now I wish he had a bit more inspiration when it comes to naming companies,” jokes Connell.

“But again, the only clear connection is the founder. There certainly are other high profile serial entrepreneurs in the world.

“We do not interface with WuXi Biologics. Chris [Chen, CEO] ] is capable of capable of defending himself and that company.”

Editor’s note: I met with WuXi Biologics executives in Manhattan in March. What they told me varies in no degree from Connell’s discussion here.

Still Positive

I’d be remiss as I end here if I did not document for readers that despite the severity of the situation for WuXi AppTec, the frustration felt by Connell personally, and the stolid refutations above, Connell throughout our discussion remained positive, humorous at times, and believed somehow, cooler minds will prevail.

International challenges test the character of individuals, companies, industries, and countries.

In this case, each of these in their own way will influence our global biopharma outsourcing world, for better or worse.


Earlier editorials from Chief Editor Louis Garguilo:

Is WuXi AppTec An Enemy Of The State?
BIO Expels WuXi, Agrees With U.S. Government
From Ally To Adversary: BIO's Swift Rebuke Of WuXi
BIOSECURE Act: Too Little, All Wrong On WuXi
Nothing To See Here! Just Massive Big Pharma Investments In China
Exclusive Interview: WuXi AppTec Responds To BIOSCURE Act