A Pharmacopoeia of Protection

By Gips, Michael A. | Security Management, March 1999 | Go to article overview
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A Pharmacopoeia of Protection

Gips, Michael A., Security Management


They seemingly came from nowhere. Forty to forty-five hooded demonstrators suddenly showed up at the gates of a Glaxo Wellcome breeding farm in the English countryside, where the pharmaceutical giant breeds animals for government-mandated testing of new medicines. Video footage from the event, which took place in January 1998, shows the protesters rocking the perimeter fence and harassing incoming and outgoing employees for about 45 minutes. On-site security staff summoned local police but knew that response time would be long because of the farm's remote location. A Glaxo Wellcome facility that supports the farm dispatched its own forces to the site for backup. But before any officers arrived, the trespassers disappeared as abruptly as they had shown up.

Reviewing CCTV footage of the incident, company security staff were able to identify a group of "hunt saboteurs" - activists out to disrupt hunting for the sake of the prey. it is believed that, being unable to find the hunt they intended to target, the group diverted its activities to the Glaxo Wellcome farm.

This ad hoc protest was just one of fifty or so incidents perpetrated by animal activists at Glaxo Wellcome facilities in the greater London area in 1998. Although few of these encounters erupted into violence, Glaxo Wellcome security has made prevention of sabotage, terrorism, and infiltration by animal rights activists one of its top priorities.

Glaxo Wellcome produces such well-known products as Zantac, Welbutrin (an antidepressant), and Zyban (an antismoking medication). As one of the largest pharmaceutical operations in the world, the company has a lot to protect: not only its millions of dollars in assets and incalculable intellectual property but also its image as a healer and compassionate corporate citizen. Although research, development, manufacturing, and clinical trials/administration occur in many countries around the world, including the United States, Japan, France, and Australia, Glaxo Wellcome is a British company, and its United Kingdom facilities conduct a large proportion of the organization's research and development work.

Like points on a crown, Glaxo Wellcome's UK facilities ring the city of London. The newest is Stevenage, located about 30 miles north of London. It is on a 97-acre site and houses about 2,200 scientists and support personnel. As the center of the company's research efforts, Stevenage can fairly be considered the jewel in the crown of the UK operations.

To its east are a pair of side-by-side campuses in Ware, where a staff of almost 3,500 develops and manufactures pharmaceuticals. The animal breeding farm is located in the nearby countryside. East of London is a 130-acre, 3,000-employee manufacturing facility at Dartford. Continuing clockwise, at Beckenham, to the southwest of London, is a small research facility. And completing the circle is Greenford, slightly west of London, where 2,300 employees work, most of whom handle R&D regulation, with the remainder staffing the worldwide corporate headquarters.

Glaxo Wellcome's UK facilities are girded by many of the same physical safeguards and security policies in use at other large international companies. Measures include: physical security and access control; proprietary information safeguards; bomb threat response; personnel protection; and insider theft prevention.

Physical Security

Geoff Whitfield, head of security for Glaxo Wellcome Research and Development, favors a layered approach to physical security, which starts with strong perimeter protection. The animal breeding farm and Stevenage research center provide illustrative examples.

Breeding farm. As shown in the incident described at the beginning of this story, the company's ten-acre breeding farm frequently attracts activists, and the facility was designed accordingly.

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