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Micky Tortorella speaking at Guangzhou Municipal Government
Micky Tortorella (GIBH) speaking at Guangzhou Municipal Government

University of Birmingham scientists have worked with partners in Guangzhou to develop new drugs that can tackle global health epidemics, which have an impact on China’s rural communities.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham joined forces with their counterparts at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH) to develop a promising hit for anti-Tuberculosis therapy and initiate a drug discovery effort.

In order further to develop the drug and make it available to TB patients, particularly those with drug-resistant strains of the disease, Birmingham and GIBH are working to progress future development of the compounds through the independent spin-out company Legion.

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood heard more about the research project from the collaborative team during his recent visit to Guangzhou.

Professor Sir David Eastwood commented: “The University of Birmingham is a world leader in molecular chemistry and biosciences, and our partnership with experts at GIBH is making promising progress in the fight against global health epidemics.

“We are a global university with a civic outlook and I am delighted that our work with colleagues at GIBH is progressing development on compounds that could help to improve health outcomes for millions of people, particularly in communities across rural China.”

The drug discovery effort has been led by Professor John Fossey and Dr Luke Alderwick, Director of the Birmingham Drug Discovery Facility - from the University’s Schools of Chemistry and Biosciences. At GIBH, the efforts have been headed by Dr Cleopatra Neagoie, chemistry team leader and Micky Tortorella, Director of the Drug Discovery Pipeline.

Professor John S. Fossey commented: “We designed and synthesised the first generation of molecules in Birmingham and a team of expert GIBH researchers synthesised and optimised the molecules. Thanks to a wider team involving our postgraduate students, we developed a number of compounds, which have great promise as therapeutic treatments.

“Working online has been essential for us - allowing us smoothly to share project data across borders – contributing greatly to the success and sustainability of our partnership. We look forward to a new chapter in drug development as GIBH’s spinout company progresses our discoveries in China.”

Teams based in Britain and China used innovative data sharing technology – developed by the University of Birmingham – to help them to work faster and more effectively whilst separated by thousands of kilometres.

One of the most important online tools they used is the University of Birmingham’s BEAR DataShare facility. This allows the team to share project-related data securely across the world – even by mobile phone, using a specially developed app.

“Resistant TB is an unmet medical need in China and this joint project is very important to the citizens of China. Great things are on the way and we are delighted that our research is now at the point where we can take it to the next level of development,” commented Micky Tortorella.

GIBH is a high-profile research institute, run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Government of Guangdong Province, and the People’s Government of Guangzhou Municipality. Research areas include stem cell and regenerative medicine, chemical biology, public health, immunology and infectious diseases.

The University of Birmingham has a long-standing relationship with the city of Guangzhou, which is also the sister city of Birmingham itself. The University opened its Guangzhou Centre in 2011 and its China Institute has forged close links with partners in the city and beyond.

  • For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165. 
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The history of collaboration between China and the University of Birmingham dates back almost to the foundation of the University in 1901. The University’s China Institute was created in 2012 to reflect Birmingham’s extensive academic activities its colleagues undertake in China.
  • Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences (GIBH) was established in 2006. GIBH is exploring disease mechanism with cutting-edge technologies and developing innovative protocols for disease control and prevention. It provides an R&D platform in biomedicine and functions as an incubator for bioengineering and pharmaceutical industries to support local economic development as well as national strategic science and technology programmes.
  • University of Birmingham research was supported by Medical Research Council (MRC) Confidence in Concept (CiC) funds and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Follow-on funding.