Academia Sinica president barred from leaving Taiwan

AcademiaSinica

The head of the most prestigious research institute in Taiwan is facing charges of corruption and breach of trust after accusations continue over his alleged insider trading.  

Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey was released on bail yesterday, but prosecutors have barred him from leaving the country.

Wong, the head of Taiwan's top science research agency, issued a public apology earlier this month for his daughter's controversial sale of OBI Pharma shares--saying it was him who dumped the stock just before data from the company's key cancer drug showing it had failed a key trial was made public.

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The Academia Sinica president--and a world-renowned chemist who has been touted as a potential future Nobel Prize winner--has been under increasing pressure to explain how his daughter was able to afford 3 million shares of Taiwan’s largest biotech OBI Pharma, priced at NT$31 ($0.95) per share at the time of purchase, and why she sold a number of shares so close to the announcement.

The Taipei-based biotech's lead drug--the breast cancer candidate OBI-822/82--posted disappointing results from a late-stage trial in February, seeing its share tank.

The company said on Feb. 21 that the candidate did not meet the primary efficacy endpoint in a Phase II/III study, but that it showed improvement in progression-free survival and the secondary endpoint of overall survival "is trending towards statistical significance."

The drug is based on research originally conducted by Wong, and he had in the past endorsed its prospects--something that carries much weight, given that he is the head of Taiwan's most prestigious research institution and therefore can have a major impact on the price of OBI Pharma shares.

Wong had been in the U.S. up until last week. He had tendered his resignation as president, but this was denied as he was told to return to Taiwan and explain his actions.

Wong faces possible charges of corruption and breach of trust after being questioned by prosecutors on Wednesday, along with 10 others including the biotech’s founder, Michael Chang. Chang was released on a NT$1 million (US$3,100) bond.

Chang Hui-fen, manager of OBI Pharma's financial department, has also been listed as a co-defendant. Wong was summoned to Shilin District Prosecutors' Office on Wednesday as searches were conducted in his office at Academia Sinica.

Samuel Yin, chairman of the Ruentex Group--who has invested in the biotech--and Wong's wife were also questioned. They were both later released.

- check out China Post’s story

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