Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • China's scientific shortcut to new drugs


In the United States a new drug can take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to research and develop. For developing countries this investment is prohibitive, which explains why more than 97 per cent of drugs produced in China are 'generic' versions of drugs developed elsewhere.

Lately, Chinese researchers developing new drugs have found a shortcut, writes Jia Hepeng. By identifying the active compounds in plants used in ancient traditional medicines, they are then able to develop new drugs from compounds they already know are effective.

The Chinese herb danshen, for instance, has been used for hundreds of years to treat a range of ailments including heart disease. Researchers have identified and isolated the active compounds and shown in clinical trials that they are indeed effective.

But this process is not always straightforward. Some remedies can use up to 20 of the thousands of plants used in traditional medicine. Even identifying the active compound in danshen took more than a decade. For medicines based on multiple plants, the challenge is greater.

Link to full China Daily article.

To read more about indigenous knowledge visit SciDev.Net's indigenous knowledge dossier.

We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.