China's Ministry of Science and Technology has approved a new laboratory in Guangzhou to bolster research into respiratory diseases, sources with Guangzhou Medical College said on Tuesday.
The State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases would be inaugurated in April or May after the ministry completes a feasibility study, said Zhong Nanshan, a SARS expert and president of the Chinese Medical Association.
The lab would carry out advanced research and develop new drugs and vaccines, said Zhong, who earned his reputation through his efforts to curb the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus in 2003.
The new institution would be based on an existing research facility co-sponsored in 2005 by the Biomedicine and Health Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, he said.
The old facility had been fruitful in its research into flu, bird flu, lung cancer and asthma.
"It will be expanded to 7,600 square meters from the current 4,600 square meters," Zhong said. "It will seek cooperation and exchanges with other countries and will hopefully make breakthroughs in treating and preventing epidemic outbreaks."
The new lab would also have the country's largest ward for respiratory disease sufferers, accommodating up to 300 in-patients.
The Ministry of Science and Technology is to send an expert panel to Guangzhou next month to oversee the construction.
The World Health Organization (WTO) estimates about one billion people suffer chronic respiratory diseases worldwide and more than four million die annually.
Respiratory diseases were the biggest single killer of Chinese rural dwellers in 2005, the most recent year that data was available, and was the fourth killer in cities.
"The SARS and bird flu outbreaks in recent years triggered panic and caused huge economic losses across the globe," said Zhong. "It's therefore important for scientists to boost research capacities and develop more effective diagnostic devices, medication and vaccines."
(Xinhua News Agency April 10, 2007)