Joint Taiwan-US biotech lab set to open in Hsinchu

THE FUTURE: Initiated by Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey, the NT$3 billion center will focus on David Ho's AIDS cocktail drug and a CD4 treatment


Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 12

Genentech Inc, a US biotechnology research company, plans to found a research joint venture with the Taiwanese government in Hsinchu to develop AIDS treatments headed by Taiwanese-American researcher David Ho (何大一), Chinese-language news-papers said yesterday.

Ho has reportedly agreed to serve as chairman of the planned joint-venture -- to be known as TaiMed -- which is to be set up in Hsinchu Biochemical Science Park (新竹生醫科學園區), reports quoted Liang Chi-ming (梁啟銘), director of the Office of Public Affairs at the Academia Sinica, as saying.

Academia Sinica is the nation's top research institute.

South San Francisco-based Genentech will transfer its CD4 antibody technology to TaiMed, the United Daily News said, citing Liang.

CD4, which exists on the membrane of T cells, is a primary receptor used by HIV-1 to gain entry into host T cells, which plays an essential role in cell-mediated immunity and targets of HIV infection. If developed successfully, the CD4 antibody will block CD4 from destroying the immune system.

Funding for the joint-venture should reach NT$3 billion (US$90.5 million) for the first three years, with the Cabinet's Development Fund investing in as much as 45 percent of that, the paper quoted Liang as saying. The rest of the funds will come from private enterprises and venture capital, the paper said.

The China Times carried a similar report yesterday, citing Council for Economic Planning and Development chairwoman Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) as saying that the government had budgeted NT$12.1 billion to develop the nation's biotech industry, a figure that is expected to increase.

But the government investment will not exceed 45 percent, or the company would become state-run, Ho said in the report.

Liang said that the project was initiated by Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠), who hopes to establish a research firm to attract overseas Taiwanese biotech researchers back to the nation.

Ho, well-known for pioneering the use of protease inhibitors in treating HIV-infected patients with his team, will be hired as a researcher by the Academia Sinica and then assume the chairmanship of TaiMed, the reports said, quoting Liang.

The CD4 treatment, along with Ho's cocktail drug for curbing AIDS in its early period, will be the focus at TaiMed, Liang said.

If the new drug is successful, TaiMed could earn royalties from drug manufacturers and obtain sales right in East Asia, he said.

The legislature passed the Biotech and New Pharmaceutical Development Act (生技新藥產業發展條例) last Friday, which allows government researchers to transfer their knowledge to private companies developing new drugs.