In 2003, a new disease caught China — and the world — by surprise. Severe acute respiratory disease (SARS) eventually claimed 813 lives worldwide, after infecting more than 8,000 people.
Thousands of Chinese scientists put their research projects aside to study SARS. In this article, Apoorva Mandavilli shows how in doing so they helped to create a nationwide boom in research into infectious diseases.
Since 2003, China has created two new institutes — one set up by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the other a collaborative effort with the Pasteur Institute in France. There are also plans for a joint endeavour with Columbia University in the United States.
But obstacles remain. Some say the government needs to work more closely with researchers to maintain the pace of progress. And in a country that is no stranger to emerging infectious diseases, keeping up with the pathogens is vital.