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China urgently needs an equivalent of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) says an editorial in Nature. Such a body was proposed in April 2003 by vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zhu Chen, following the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). 

Chen is backed by prominent researchers from China and overseas. However, progress has stalled following disagreement about whether the body should include government health research laboratories or be confined to disbursing grants. 

This article argues that the latter function is imperative. A well managed, transparent system for allocation of funds to university scientists on a competitive and peer-reviewed basis would greatly advance biomedical science in China, it says.

Link to full article in Nature

Reference: Nature 428, 679 (2004)