TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Wong Chi-Huey (翁啟惠), former president of Academia Sinica and current president of the Institute of Biotechnology and Medicine Industry (IBIM), has become the first Taiwanese winner of the Welch Award in Chemistry for his breakthrough in enzyme technology.
Presented annually by the Robert A. Welch Foundation, the award recognizes contributions to chemical research that benefit humankind. Wong previously won the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 2014 in recognition of his "numerous original contributions to the programmable and practical synthesis of complex carbohydrates and glycoproteins," Taipei-based Academia Sinica said.
"With this award, he is being recognized for his development of new methods for the synthesis of complex carbohydrates and glycoproteins and the elucidation of carbohydrate-mediated biological recognition associated with disease progression," according to a press release from the Welch Foundation.
The scientist is a pioneer in the field of enzyme technology, as he was the first in the world to successfully synthesize the complex polysaccharide, the most abundant carbohydrate found in food. His method has been applied to the development of medicines for heart disease, stroke, and inflammation.
Wong has made substantial contributions to the knowledge of bioorganic chemistry and carbohydrates. His findings have helped change the public's perception of carbohydrates and also provided opportunities for vaccine development and cancer treatments, per the release.
At the age of 31, the scholar left to pursue his Ph.D. in the United States, where he started studying carbohydrates. After 20 years, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his research.
For his next step, Wong is expected to garner the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, CNA wrote, as several winners of the Welch Award and Wolf Prize have subsequently gone on to become Nobel laureates.