Yeh from PharmaEngine, first female winner at ITRI

Founder of PharmaEngine Inc (智 擎 生 技) Grace Yeh (葉常菁) became the first female Fellow of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工業 技術 研究院) since it began awarding scholarships to business leaders 10 years ago.

ITRI ​​President Lee Chih-kung (李世光) said at the 10th ITRI Laureates Awards Ceremony on Tuesday that Yeh’s induction was important, because in addition to being the 50th Laureate of the institute, she is the first female scholarship holder.

Yeh said she was surprised to learn that she was the first woman to be awarded.

Photo: ANC

Taiwan has many outstanding female tech leaders, but they have so far been ignored by the award winner selection committee, Yeh said, urging ITRI and other institutions to broaden their perspective.

While women are not necessarily stronger than men, they do help make society more diverse, she said.

“Women generally have different thoughts and backgrounds, which helps them to be more tolerant,” she said.

Yeh thanked her parents and her husband for their support and encouragement.

She also thanked the President of Center Laboratories Inc (晟 德 大 藥廠), Lin Rong-jin (林榮 錦), for persuading her to return to Taiwan and in 2003 to create PharmaEngine, a Taipei-based biopharmaceutical company that develops cancer treatments.

Yeh said that after stepping down as president and CEO of the company in 2019, she moved to Switzerland to create Onward Therapeutics SA, a developer of hematology and solid tumor drugs.

Although her main activity is now in Europe, Yeh is also vice president of the Taiwan Bio Industry Organization (台灣 生物 產業 協會).

She hopes her involvement will help make Taiwan’s biotech industry more international, Yeh said.

As a businesswoman, she hopes to bring more attention to gender equality so that more female ITRI fellows are selected, she said.

Yeh received his doctorate in immunology from the Medical University of South Carolina.

As the head of PharmaEngine, Yeh created and adopted the “no research, development only” and “network pharma” business models for drug developers.

At the time of the company’s founding, the first model was particularly suited to Taiwanese biotechnology companies, which were mostly at an early stage of growth and had limited access to capital, thus having limited resources for research and development. marketing.

Under the “network pharma” model, companies outsource drug development processes to contract manufacturers and research organizations for the development of new drugs.

Using this model, PharmaEngine developed two drugs: Onivyde for the treatment of pancreatic cancer and PEP503, a new radio amplifier for the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma.

Onivyde was approved in 2015 by the United States Food and Drug Administration for intravenous use as a first-line combination for the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer. It was the first cancer drug developed in Taiwan to receive US approval.

PharmaEngine, which entered the local stock market over-the-counter in 2012, reached a market capitalization of over NT $ 30 billion ($ 1.08 billion at current exchange rate) after approval.

At the time, the company had only 22 employees, each worth NT $ 1.4 billion, Yeh said, pointing to the profitability of the industry.

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