Advancing our research engagement in China
Committed to meaningful collaborative partnerships that promote excellence in basic and clinical science to improve global human health, the College of Medical and Dental Sciences has been engaging Chinese partners as that country continues to develop its capacity in education and research.
The College plays a pivotal role in the University’s most significant engagement in China to date – The University of Birmingham Guangzhou Centre. This landmark partnership with the Guangzhou Municipal Government launched in September 2011, and the Centre’s activities have focused primarily on research collaborations in areas such as translational medicine, large population studies in lifestyle and infectious diseases and cognitive neuroscience.
Professor KK Cheng, Professor of Public Health and Primary Care and the College’s champion for its engagement in China "Our work will help to answer important clinical and public health questions in China, especially in the area of chronic diseases. By training postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, it will also contribute to research capacity building in south China."
Three specific research projects are currently underway, with many future projects planned.
The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study (GBCS)
Building on well-established links, Birmingham epidemiologists are carrying out the first five-year follow-up of a pioneering public health project in Guangzhou. GBCS is a collaborative research project monitoring 30,000 men and women over 50 in Guangzhou province. The main long-term aim of the study is to examine the effects of genetic and environmental influences on health and chronic disease development, particularly circulatory disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer and dementia.
The Born in Guangzhou Cohort Study
The aim of this study is to understand the genetic and environmental determinants of maternal health, foetal growth, birth outcomes and development of diseases in children. This birth cohort will be the largest in China and one of the largest in the world.
Birmingham-Guangzhou Brain and Cognition Centre
This Centre is developing a large-scale research programme to improve the assessment and treatment of stroke and neurological conditions in China including tumours, traumatic head injury, and dementia. This will involve developing – within a Chinese context – the novel behavioural screening procedures created in Birmingham that efficiently measure a range of cognitive problems after brain injury; implementing procedures for advanced brain imaging to provide new biomarkers of functional recovery after brain injury; and developing computerised forms of cognitive screening for bedside testing and rehabilitation. The Centre will also market the new diagnostic tests and deliver training programmes to benefit clinicians and patients.
University of Birmingham – Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH) joint initiative
In April 2012, the University and GIBH signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a new joint initiative. GIBH has a strong international reputation in the generation and manipulation of pluripotent stem cells, while Birmingham has unrivalled experience and resources in the area of cell-based therapy for pre-clinical testing in animal models and subsequent trials in man. The initiative will focus on the application of stem cell biology to regenerative medicine and novel therapies to modify the body's response to organ injury with the hope of eventually establishing a joint Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.
Professor Jonathan Frampton, Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer and Professor of Stem Cell Biology, was a member of the University delegation that travelled to China.
Professor Jonathan Frampton "The initiative is firmly grounded in shared scientific interests and the objective to translate discoveries into patient benefit, and we believe this joint initiative will be a model for international research collaboration at the highest level. We will each gain from the other’s expertise and specialist resources to enable delivery of cutting-edge research outcomes."
See the College of Medical and Dental Sciences engagement with China.
New agreements with Chinese Institutions
A Study Abroad Agreement was signed with South China University of Technology(SCUT), Guangzhou in December 2012, and we look forward to welcoming students from SCUT to come and spend a year at Birmingham.
We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Central South University in Changsha in November 2012 to collaborate in the areas of Medicine and Engineering.
Honorary doctorate awarded to China’s SARS hero
Professor Zhong Nanshan, a leading figure in the combat of the 2003 SARS epidemic in China, was recently awarded an honorary degree by the University of Birmingham at a special graduation ceremony in Guangzhou.
Head of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases and probably the most high profile public face in the war against SARS, Professor Zhong is a recipient of numerous honours and has received wide recognition for his work, including the Presidency of the Chinese Medical Association between 2005 and 2010. In 2009, Professor Zhong was honoured as one of China’s top 100 most influential citizens during the 60 years since the founding of the People’s Republic.
During the 2003 outbreak of SARS, as the leading respiratory clinician in Guangzhou, Professor Zhong, together with his team, proposed to admit all the critical SARS cases in Guangdong province into his institute. Through unravelling the nature of the virus, Professor Zhong helped bring calm to the nation and enabled a greater disaster to be averted.
Professor Zhong has conducted groundbreaking research in asthma and, most notably, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a major cause of death in China. Under his leadership, the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases became the first of its kind in China to be designated Key State Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases.
Officiated by the Vice-Chancellor Professor David Eastwood, Professor Zhong’s graduation ceremony was part of a University of Birmingham biomedical research forum taking place in Guangzhou. During the forum, senior academics from the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and the College of Life and Environmental Sciences presented research highlights in areas such as human disease modelling, clinical trials, translational medicine and cognitive neuroscience.