An employee of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc. has been arrested on suspicion of insider trading carried out with a former employee of a rival bio-pharmaceutical company. Songjiang Wang, who had been a director of statistical programming at Merrimack, was charged with conspiring to commit securities fraud in a complaint filed in criminal federal court in Boston.
Wang was arrested after related charges were filed a few months earlier against Schultz Chan, a man previously employed as the director of bio-statistics at Akebia Therapeutics Inc. Fifty-two-year-old Wang was released on a $750,000 bond. According to a statement issued by Merrimack, the case did not involve the company as a whole and was in fact an isolated matter involving a single employee. The company added that it was fully cooperating with the authorities. Wang has since been dismissed by Merrimack.
Many clinical trials represent the very last hope for patients. This was certainly the case for one lung cancer patient who, having been given just 18 months to live, was left with no trace of the disease after taking part in the trial of a new combination of two as yet unnamed drugs at a Manchester hospital.
A number of factors have to come together for any clinical trial to be successful, including having access to a group of subjects who are willing to stick rigidly to whatever regime they are being asked to undergo and having effective Clinical Trial Assistants with appropriate skills to monitor and document the progress of the trial.
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With so much good work being done by dedicated professionals, incidents such as the one involving Wang become even more disturbing. What makes this case particularly troubling is that security is at the heart of all clinical trials. Not only are commercial interests at risk when such data is leaked, but sensitive information such as medical histories, genetic profiles and details of the physical and mental health of those taking part in a trial could be compromised.