《TAIPEI TIMES》 Former vaccine committee member accused of working at Chinese firm – 焦點

Academia Sinica academician Chen Pei-jer, center, stands with US virologist Harvey Alter, left, in Australia in September 2019.
Photo courtesy of Chen Pei-jer

2021/06/10 03:00

By Jason Pan / Staff reporter

Academia Sinica academician Chen Pei-jer (陳培哲), who on Monday resigned from the vaccine review committee, has been accused of working as an adviser for a Shanghai-based Chinese pharmaceutical company.

Chen was allegedly listed as a “scientific adviser” on the Web site of Zhimeng Biopharma Inc (上海摯盟醫藥科技公司) in Shanghai, China, while he served as a committee member, sources said yesterday.

If the claims are true, it could mean Chen had contravened the law restricting government officials and employees from undertaking concurrent jobs in China and other countries.

Chen is also a professor at state-funded National Taiwan University (NTU) and a medical researcher at NTU Hospital.

Chen yesterday said he was not in a paid position at the Chinese firm.

He showed a letter from Zhimeng Biopharma stating that Chen’s scientific adviser role is an honorary title without any responsibility, obligation or payment, and “purely scientific advancement.”

However, critics said Chen and the company were trying to cover up their ties.

When resigning from the committee, Chen accused President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of pressuring the body to expedite the approval of the MVC-COV1901 vaccine being developed by Medigen Vaccine Biologics.

Citing his reasons for resigning his post, Chen said he believed the committee would have trouble staying neutral when reviewing domestic vaccine candidates.

The main problem was Tsai, as she said a locally developed COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available late next month, Chen said, insinuating that the Food and Drug Administration could not resist pressure from the president and would expedite the vaccine’s approval.

New Taipei City Councilor Ho Po-wen (何博文) of the Democratic Progressive Party yesterday accused Chen of working to benefit China by sabotaging Taiwan’s vaccine development efforts.

Ho presented documents allegedly showing that Chen had close ties with universities and biotechnology companies in China, including Xiamen University.

Ho also said that Chen timed his resignation and public accusations just before the completion of phase 2 clinical trials of the vaccine, with Medigen scheduled to announce results of human trials soon.

“Chen is undermining Taiwan’s own COVID-19 vaccine to prevent it from reaching production. In his position as a committee member and a medical expert, he is saying Medigen’s vaccine is doomed to failure, and it would not pass clinical trials,” Ho said.


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