The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID) yesterday closed its investigation into Yu Chang Biologics Co (宇昌生技股份有限公司), now known as TaiMed Biologics Inc (中裕新藥股份有限公司), clearing former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of any wrongdoing.
The SID launched its investigation during the presidential campaign after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers accused Tsai of manipulating investments by the National Development Fund (NDF) in TaiMed when she was vice premier in 2007. Tsai served as chairperson of the biotech company for several months after she stepped down as vice premier in May 2007.
The SID said Tsai did not embezzle any money in the case or abuse any funds. All the money in the National Development Fund’s investment in TaiMed was legal and clear, it said.
The SID investigated Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals Co (南華生技), which applied for National Development Fund support in 2005 and 2007, and TaiMed Biotech Fund, which applied for funding in 2007 and 2008.
Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals was to be a pharmaceutical company founded in Taiwan by Nancy Chang (唐南珊), chairperson of Tanox — a US-based biopharmaceutical company — and then-Euroc Venture Capital Co chairman Kao Yu-jen (高育仁) for the research and development of a drug known as TNX-355.
TNX-355 is an anti-AIDS drug that may prevent HIV from breaching the immune system.
The SID investigation clarified why the National Development Fund refused Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals’ TNX-355 funding request, but provided funding to Yu Chang, which was importing and developing a similar drug from the US drug giant Genentech and later acquired Tanox in 2007.
The SID said there was no evidence that the National Development Fund’s decision resulted from external factors and there was no evidence that senior government officials lobbied for TaiMed.
Documents showed the fund’s decision not to provide support to Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals Co was because Tanox had been acquired by Genentech, and Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals Co did not clearly explain its future technology sources and the company’s development structure to the fund, the SID said.
The SID said that although both TaiMed and Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals Co planned to build plants and manufacture products in Taiwan, Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals Co’s plan was to manufacture 80 percent of Tanox’s orders, but TaiMed’s proposal was that TaiMed and Genentech cooperate to develop TNX-355 and that the new drug, if developed successfully, would be manufactured in Taiwan.
The SID said the Tsai family invested in TaiMed using their own money and that all the funding was clean.
The SID said it interviewed more than 30 people during the investigation, including former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), former Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) chairpersons Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) and Hu Sheng-cheng (胡勝正), and Yu Chang funders David Ho (何大一), an AIDS expert, and Chen Lan-bo (陳良博), a Harvard University professor.
The SID said Hu, who may have violated laws regarding the private-public boundary, was sent to the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office for investigation.
Hu served as chairperson of TaiMed after leaving his post at the council.
The SID also sent former National Development Fund deputy executive director James Ho (何俊輝) to the Control Yuan for investigation because it said he had inappropriately discussed Yu Chang’s proposal at Tsai’s residence and office.
In a press release, Tsai said she has always been honest about her role and involvement in Yu Chang Biologics, which she said was a collaboration between the administrative and legislative branch to promote development of Taiwan’s biotechnology industry.
However, she said the KMT administration used the case as a political tool during the presidential campaign, a move that not only tainted the reputation of several renowned scientists, but also hurt the development of the sector.
“While the [SID’s] decision has proven the innocence of the people involved, it would be very difficult for me to say that I’m happy with the results,” Tsai said.
Tsai said she was not surprised by the findings, adding that she hoped the case would be an example for elections in the future.
“We hope the mud-slinging tactics will stop right here and the national leader will no longer employ government agencies for political gain,” Tsai said.
Additional reporting by staff reporter Chris Wang
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