Mon, May 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Legislators say research center sale would rob the country of a vital asset

BIOTECHNOLOGY Huang Wei-cher and Lai Shin-yuan complained that a valuable pre-clinical trial drug development research center was being sold too cheaply

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators called on the government yesterday not to sell a research center attached to the Development Center for Biotech-nology (DCB), a government-supported research and development organization, saying that the sale would damage the country's biotechnology industry.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) made the appeal at a press conference held in the legislature.

The legislators asked the Ministry of Economic Affairs, co-sponsor of the DCB, to investigate whether former DCB chairman Ho Show-chung (何壽川) had planned the sale of the pre-clinical trial drug development research center because he wanted to buy it.

Ho's Bridge Pharmaceuticals (BPI) was one of the bidders for the center, the legislators said.

"The center was established at a cost of NT$620 million [US$19.6 million] and yet the BPI's bid is just NT$100 million. If the deal is done, an important national asset will have been sold cheaply to a private business," the legislators said.

The legislators said that the center was only the second facility in Asia to be fully accredited by the Association of Laboratory Animal Care International.

BPI is a US-based SRI International (formerly the Stanford Research Institute) spin-off company focused on providing low cost, FDA-compliant drug development services in Asia for US and EU based clients.

The legislators said that Ho, one of the executives who helped to found BPI in March 2004, had invested US$500,000 in the name of DCB and another US$500,000 in the name of the Ministry of Economic Affairs-founded Industrial Technology Research Institution into BPI.

"Although Ho has invested a large sum of the government's money in BPI, he hasn't bought any business opportunities to DCB in return," Huang said.

"Moreover, his decision to sell the research center would deprive Taiwan of the opportunity to autonomously develop its biotechnology industry," Lai said.

In response to the accusation, Michelle Lin (林美雪), head of DCB's industry advancement department, defended Ho, saying at the press conference that selling the research center was part of the government's stated industrial policy.

"We have been running the center at a loss for a long time. We need subsidies of about NT$100 million a year from the ministry to operate the center as it only generates about NT$40 million a year," Lin said.

Lin said that the first round of bidding for the center had failed as the DCB was not satisfied with the bid prices, and that it had not yet been decided that the center would be sold to BPI.

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