Back to list

Academia Sinica head returning to face OBI Pharma controversy

2016/04/14 19:31:20

Academia Sinica chief Academia Sinica. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠), president of Academia Sinica, will return to Taiwan Friday to answer questions at the highest government level on his controversial role in the trading of a biopharmaceutical company's stocks, the academic institute said Thursday.

Wang Fan-sen (王汎森), vice president of Academia Sinica, said Wong will meet with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英久) shortly after arrival in Taiwan at noon and is expected to explain the details of the matter that prompted Wong to tender his resignation on March 31.

The resignation, which cited health reasons, was not accepted by Ma, but he urged Wong to return from official leave in the United States to shed light on the controversial sale of OBI Pharma shares, held in Wong's daughter's name, a few days before the company disclosed that its clinical tests of a new cancer drug had failed.

In addition, the Legislature's Education and Culture Committee has asked Wong to attend a hearing April 18 on the OBI Pharma case, according to Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書).

The controversy erupted, with Wong at the center, after shares of the publicly listed OBI Pharma Inc. plunged following the release of its report Feb. 21 on the Phase 2/3 clinical trial of a cancer drug it had developed.

Wong, a biochemist considered to be an expert on the theory behind OBI Pharma's cancer drug, issued a statement on March 3 through Academia Sinica, saying that he himself did not hold any shares in Taiwan's biotech companies.

On March 23, a story in Next Magazine revealed that Wong's daughter, Wong Yu-Shioh (翁郁琇), had acquired 3 million OBI Pharma shares in 2012 at a price of NT$31 per share before the company obtained listing on the over-the-counter market at NT$310 per share the following year.

The story fueled accusations against the Academia Sinica president of conflict of interest and possible insider trading, as OBI's announcement sent the company's stock price tumbling 35 percent in just four days.

An initial investigation later found that Wong's daughter had sold 10,000 OBI Pharma shares three days before the announcement of the cancer drug's failure.

On April 7, Wong Chi-huey issued a statement, saying that he had sold the 10,000 shares on his daughter's behalf Feb. 18, on the advice of a stockbroker.

He said he was not privy to the trial results before the shares were sold and that the decision was unrelated to the results of the drug trials.

On Wednesday, a legislator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wong in fact had attended a high-level meeting of OBI Pharma before the company announced the drug trial results.

The lawmaker made the disclosure after a closed-door hearing of the legislative Finance Committee, in which officials from the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) reported on the OBI Pharma (浩鼎) case.

(By Hsieh Chia-chen, Justin Su, Chen Chih-chung and S.C. Chang)