AsianScientist (Apr. 29, 2016) – Professor Wong Chi-Huey remains the President of Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, despite a motion passed by the country’s Legislative Yuan (parliament) yesterday calling for his resignation.
Wong, a multi–award winning scientist, has been President of Taiwan’s national scientific academy since 2006. He is credited for developing the first enzymatic method for the large-scale synthesis of oligosaccharides, Optimer One-Pot Synthesis (OPopS), a technique that allows scientists to reliably and efficiently synthesize desired carbohydrates.
The present controversy concerns a vaccine developed against the Globo H, an oligosaccharide discovered by Wong to be a potential human cancer antigen. One of the first carbohydrate-based vaccines, OBI-822 was being tested in a Phase II/III clinical trial by a company called OBI Pharma for its effects on breast cancer.
In February 2016, publicly listed OBI Pharma announced that OBI-822 had failed to meet the trial’s primary endpoint of progression-free survival in patients with metastatic breast cancer. The announcement, made on February 21, sent stock prices crashing some 40 percent, from NT$719 (~US$22.29) on February 19 to NT$351 (~US$10.88) by February 24.
Through a statement issued through the Academia Sinica on March 3, Wong announced that he did not hold any shares in Taiwan’s biotech companies. However, it was subsequently reported by Next Magazine that his daughter, Ms. Wong Yu-shioh, owned three million shares in OBI Pharma, making her the tenth largest shareholder. According to a March 26 report in The China Post, Ms. Wong had sold off more than a million shares in the company before the announcement of the negative results.
The elder Wong, who at the time was in the US on academic affairs, offered to resign twice on health grounds but was rejected by Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou. Arriving back in Taiwan on April 15, Wong was listed as a possible defendant of a probe into insider trading allegations on April 21, and banned from leaving the country.
Wong, who maintains his innocence, has most recently applied for a 28-day leave of absence which has also been denied.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Academia Sinica.
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