Robert Chin-Yao Ting '53

It is with deep regret that I inform Amherst of the passing of my father, Robert Chin-Yao Ting ’53.  My father arrived in the United States in 1948 from Shanghai and stayed with his sister, who had previously attended Mount Holyoke.  At her urging, he applied to Amherst College and, although he did not have a high school transcript, managed to gain entrance on a six-month probationary period.  He not only graduated but also stayed on to complete a masters degree in genetics in 1956 under Professor Harold Plough, a rarity at the time.
He then went on to receive a doctoral degree in microbiology and biochemistry from the Univ. of Illinois in 1960 under Salvador E. Luria, who later won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology and then spent the next two years on a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, working with Renato Dulbecco, who later won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology.

In 1962, he joined the National Institutes of Health where he joined the war against cancer and became a senior research scientist at the National Cancer Institute.  He also served as an associate editor for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute from 1966 to 1968.  In 1969, he joined Litton Bionetics Inc., where he became scientific director of the cancer research branch, leading a project funded by the Institute to search for viruses in human leukemia patients.  During this period, he collaborated extensively on human T-cell leukemia viruses with Dr. Robert C. Gallo, co-discoverer of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS.

With academic, government, and private business experience under his belt, he decided to go into business on his own and, in 1973, started Biotech Research Laboratories that provided research services and supplies to the National Institute of Health until 1981, when it went public and produced the first FDA-approved diagnostic test kits for HIV antibody confirmation.

After his “retirement” from Biotech Research Laboratories in the late ’80s, he decided to join the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology at the National University of Singapore, which was just emerging as a world-class research center, as a visiting professor and principal investigator and studied both HIV and plasmodium, the parasite responsible for malaria.  After several years, he “retired” again and returned to the United States in 1998 to join the board of Cell Works Inc. in Baltimore, and he became chair and chief executive of a joint venture, Cell Works Asia Limited, in 2000.

Most recently, he was the founding president and chief executive of Profectus Biosciences Inc, which was formed to develop and commercialize technologies to reduce the morbidity and mortality caused by viral diseases, especially HIV.

My father was not only a research scientist and entrepreneur with a distinguished career in the fields of virology and immunology, but he was also an active participant in the Chinese community in the United States.  He served twice as US Chapter chairman of the FF Fraternity, one of the oldest Chinese fraternities in the United States and was also a member of the Organization of Chinese Americans in the DC area since its inception in the early 1970s, serving as its second president.

While he rarely spoke of his time at Amherst, I know that it always remained in his heart and mind.  In 1983, after achieving success in the biotech arena, he was able to establish the C. Van Ting Memorial Fund in honor of his father.  

He is survived by his wife of forty-four years, Sylvia; three children, Anthony ’84, Andrew, and Jennifer; seven sisters; and seven grandchildren.

—Anthony E. Ting ’84