In an effort to find traditional medical remedies for diseases such as cancer and AIDS the Ministry of Science and Technology announced yesterday that China is to invest 100 million yuan (US$12.5 million) on the subject.
The money will go to 50 cooperative programs by the end of the year and for the first time will include international partnerships. They'll aim to develop new treatments for the likes of neuroses and cardiovascular complaints, cancer and AIDS.
"The new project aims to modernize traditional medicines," said Shang Yong, vice minister of science and technology.
According to Shang, a number of countries including the United States, Japan and Singapore have expressed interest in the project. "We'll lay out programs tailored for different regions," he said.
As well as partnerships with countries which have access to plentiful funds and human resources China will give technological assistance to developing countries.
A good example of an alternative treatment is artemisinin, a herbal medicine, regarded as the best treatment for malaria and which is highly recommended to African countries.
"For Africa artemisinin is probably our first choice for collaboration," said Jin Xiaoming, a senior official with the ministry.
The official noted that by 2005 the country had traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) agreements with 70 countries which meant confidence was high in regard to the project.
As well as finding cures for diseases the project also aims to explore new markets for TCMs.
Shang expressed the wish that, "The project can promote the market share of traditional medicines in the global healthcare business."
It would also adhere to the government's previous vow that companies should play the major role in innovation by promoting the establishment of first-class joint clinical centers and laboratories.
The ministry said a list of the 50 programs was still being finalized. "Basic criteria include outstanding effectiveness and use of technology," the official said.
The project also includes training for professional TCM doctors and researchers and advocacy of knowledge about traditional medicine.
An international office is also planned to coordinate the project which is expected to attract both government and business leaders.
World Health Organization statistics show that 75 countries have established natural medicine administrations. And 51 countries have produced policies to develop indigenous traditional medicines.
Acupuncture is legally accepted in a number of countries and the export of TCMs has witnessed a steady growth in recent five years. However, the use of TCMs remains a contentious issue in some parts of the world due to a lack of understanding and shortage of new products.
(China Daily July 5, 2006)