Tue, Jul 01, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Virus expert takes up his new post at Academia Sinica


Michael Lai (賴明詔), a noted US-based coronavirus expert who has assisted in Taiwan's campaign against SARS, is scheduled to assume the post of vice president of Academia Sinica today.

Lai, 61, a Taiwan-born professor at the University of Southern California who concurrently heads a World Health Organization (WHO) coronavirus research team, is replacing Sunney Chan (陳長謙), a chemist, as the No. 2 figure at Taiwan's highest research institute. Chan has been with Academia Sinica for six years.

Lai, who has dedicated himself to coronavirus research for some 30 years, is known worldwide as "the father of coronavirus research." Currently a professor with the University of Southern California, Medical Branch, Lai's books have been used as major textbooks on the coronavirus in most medical schools in the US.

Graduated from National Taiwan University, Lai obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, with majors in virology and molecular biology.

As the coronavirus is the pathogen that causes SARS, Lai returned to Taiwan in early May to investigate the outbreaks of the pneumonia-like disease that sickened more than 8,000 people worldwide and has claimed 810 lives. Taiwan has been gripped by the mysterious, contagious disease since mid-March.

During his stay, Lai cooperated with an Academia Sinica SARS research team in developing vaccines and drugs for SARS patients.

Lai said shortly after his arrival in Taipei that there is no effective cure or preventive measures for SARS at the moment.

"Quarantine is the only way to contain its spread right now, " he said.

After assuming his post as vice president of Academia Sinica, Lai is expected to head, supervise and coordinate the institute's genosome and life sciences research.

Academia Sinica, headed by Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), will host a news conference July 23 to formally introduce Lai to the country.

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