Her family was one of the many Chinese citizens who fled to Hong Kong in 1952 after the Communist revolution of the 1940s, and in the Maryknoll Convent School at Hong Kong, she excelled in science and was encouraged to move to the United States. She did so at the age of 18, and graduated cum laude with a B.S. in bacteriology in three years before continuing her studies at UCLA. She was the first researcher to clone HIV, and her research led to the first genetic map of the virus. Later, her team found the causative agent in an adult variant of leukemia, and accomplished research that served as the bedrock to develop new treatments for HIV and AIDS. She passed away July 8th, 2020, at the age of 73.
Legacy: Wong-Staal co-founded Immusol, a biopharmaceutical company, and specialized it into supplying drugs to treat hepatitis C. In 2019, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in the medical field.