Establishing an EU-China consortium on traditional Chinese medicine research

  • Halil Uzuner1Email author,

    Affiliated with

    • Tai-Ping Fan2,

      Affiliated with

      • Alberto Dias3,

        Affiliated with

        • De-an Guo4,

          Affiliated with

          • Hani S El-Nezami5 and

            Affiliated with

            • Qihe Xu1

              Affiliated with

              Chinese Medicine20105:42

              DOI: 10.1186/1749-8546-5-42

              Received: 20 October 2010

              Accepted: 14 December 2010

              Published: 14 December 2010

              Abstract

              Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is widely used in the European Union (EU) and attracts intense research interests from European scientists. As an emerging area in Europe, TCM research requires collaboration and coordination of actions. Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-genomic Era, also known as GP-TCM, is the first ever EU-funded 7th Framework Programme (FP7) coordination action, aiming to inform the best practice and harmonise research on the safety and efficacy of TCM through interdisciplinary exchange of experience and expertise among clinicians and scientists. With its increasingly large pool of expertise across 19 countries including 13 EU member states, Australia, Canada, China, Norway, Thailand and the USA, the consortium provides forums and collaboration platforms on quality control, extraction technology, component analysis, toxicology, pharmacology and regulatory issues of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM), as well as on acupuncture studies, with a particular emphasis on the application of a functional genomics approach. The project officially started in May 2009 and by the time of its conclusion in April 2012 a Europe-based academic society dedicated to TCM research will be founded to carry on the mission of GP-TCM.

              Introduction

              Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), especially Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) and acupuncture, is an ancient medical system used in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years [1, 2]. In contrast to the reductionist approach of Western medicine based on modern anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology as well as cell and molecular biology, TCM uses a unique system and an individualised and holistic approach to describe health and disease, based on the philosophy of Yin-Yang balance and an emphasis on harmony of functions. These two medical systems differ greatly in many respects. In the past seven years, a number of international organisations were established in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao, including the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS, September 2003), the Consortium for Globalisation of Chinese Medicine (CGCM, December 2003) and the International Society for Chinese Medicine (ISCM, 2004).

              The Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-genomic Era (GP-TCM) consortium was launched by the European Commission on the 1st May 2009. This is a three-year coordination action project funded under the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) with a total budget of €995,100. The central hypothesis of the consortium is that, using functional genomics technology, which allows high-content observations of whole profiles of molecules at different levels, eg DNA, mRNA, protein and metabolites, and furthermore linking them to clinically relevant biological functions, we might be in a better position than ever before to interpret and validate the scientific value of TCM in a holistic and function-oriented manner [311].

              Objectives

              Focusing on research of CHM and acupuncture, we especially emphasise studies of CHMs, their complex chemical ingredients and their holistic impact on the functional genomics of patients. The overall aim of the consortium is to inform the best practice and harmonise research on the safety and efficacy of TCM using a functional genomics approach through exchange of opinions, experience and expertise among scientists in EU member states, China and other parts of the world. Specifically, we aim to undertake the following objectives:

              • Develop a European-Chinese network, collaborating on functional genomics research of TCM;

              • Review current practice of TCM research, identify problems and propose solutions;

              • Propose standard protocols of methodology;

              • Propose priority areas for future research;

              • Develop online resources to support and enhance pan-European studies of TCM research;

              • Facilitate and foster a sustainable European collaboration by founding a European society dedicated to TCM research.

              Structure

              As shown in Figure 1 through ten working groups known as work packages (WPs), the consortium takes actions to review the techniques, identify problems and solutions in the quality control (WP1), extraction and analysis (WP2) of CHMs. While these fundamental issues are addressed, discussion forums emphasising the use of functional genomics methodology in research of the safety, efficacy and mechanisms of CHMs (WP3-WP7) and acupuncture (WP8) form the core of this coordination project. The project covers toxicology (WP3), in vitro and in vivo pharmacology (WP4-WP5), clinical studies (WP6), as well as international regulatory issues of CHM (WP7). WP9 is dedicated to organising the Final Conference of the consortium at the end of the project and WP10 is charged to manage consortium-wide matters, such as appointment and coordination of WP leadership, recruitment of additional experts, editing website and newsletters, drafting standard operating procedures, providing scientific and technological support and guidance, organising internal review and quality assurance, as well as liaising with the Commission and other stakeholders and external authorities.
              http://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1186%2F1749-8546-5-42/MediaObjects/13020_2010_Article_101_Fig1_HTML.jpg
              Figure 1

              Structure of the GP-TCM Consortium. GP-TCM work package interaction and relationship: GP-TCM has ten interactive working groups, known as work packages (WP). WP1-WP7 specialises in quality control, component extraction and chemical analysis, toxicology, in vitro and in vivo pharmacology, clinical studies and regulatory issues in commercial R&D respectively. WP8 is specialised in acupuncture studies and WP9 is dedicated to organising the Final conference of the consortium, at which a new European society will be launched to succeed the mission of the consortium. WP10 is the managing, coordinating and leading body of the whole consortium, aiming at integrating the expertise and collating outputs of all WPs to achieve the overall objectives of the consortium.

              Membership

              As shown in Table 1 the consortium has 27 beneficiary (ie funded) partner organisations across ten EU member states (ie Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK) and China, which is an International Cooperation Partner Country (ICPC) of the EU. The consortium has additional 60 non-beneficiary (ie unfunded) collaborating partner organisations as well as two independent experts from Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Thailand, the UK and the USA (Table 2). Please refer to the project website at http://​www.​gp-tcm.​org/​about/​partners/​ for an updated list of consortium partners. This forms a diverse, multicultural and multidisciplinary team of about 150 principal investigators, including leading scientists, clinicians, TCM practitioners, as well as experts in industrial development and regulatory issues. Non-beneficiary membership is mainly based on consortium invitation and requires outstanding expertise needed for the project. Interested parties are welcome to contact us via the GP-TCM website http://​www.​gp-tcm.​org/​contact/​. GP-TCM currently covers half of the 27 EU member states and its members in China are largely in major eastern and southern cities. As an open-ended consortium, GP-TCM welcomes interested parties from all EU member states and China to join our network, sharing resources and forging collaborations. We will continue to develop and strengthen collaborations with friends in Africa, South America, Asia and non-EU European countries to exchange experience and lessons learnt in the research of traditional medicines.
              Table 1

              GP-TCM beneficiary members

              GP-TCM beneficiary partners

              Country

              Contact

              King's College London

              UK

              Dr. Qihe Xu

              University of Vienna

              Austria

              Prof. Verena M. Dirsch

              L'Université Libre de Bruxelles

              Belgium

              Prof. Pierre Duez

              Beijing University of Chinese Medicine

              China

              Prof Yanjiang Qiao

              China Capital Medical University

              China

              Prof. Xiaomin Wang

              Institute of Medicinal Plant Development

              China

              Prof. Xinmin Liu

              Shanghai Institute of Acupuncture-Moxibustion

              China

              Prof. Huangan Wu

              Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine

              China

              Dr. Liu Chenghai

              University of Hong Kong

              China

              Dr. Hani El-Nezami

              Asper Biotech Ltd

              Estonia

              Ms. Janne Üksti

              Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices

              Germany

              Dr. Werner Knöss

              University of Düsseldorf

              Germany

              Prof. Peter Proksch

              University of Munich

              Germany

              Prof. Angelika Vollmar

              University of Bonn

              Germany

              Prof. Gabriele König

              Trinity College Dublin

              Ireland

              Dr. Helen Sheridan

              University of Milan

              Italy

              Prof. Enrica Bosisio

              University of Padova

              Italy

              Prof. Maria Carrara

              CMC Tasly Group BV

              The Netherlands

              Dr. You-Ping Zhu

              Leiden University

              The Netherlands

              Prof. Robert Verpoorte

              University of Minho

              Portugal

              Prof. Alberto Dias

              University of Alcala

              Spain

              Prof. F. Javier de Lucio Cazaña

              University Hospital Ramón y Cajal-FIBIO

              Spain

              Dr. M. Laura García Bermejo

              Acu-herb Consultant, Sheffield

              UK

              Ms. Dan Jiang

              University of Wolverhampton

              UK

              Prof. Kelvin Chan

              Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

              UK

              Prof. Monique Simmonds

              University of Southampton

              UK

              Prof. George Lewith

              University of Cambridge

              UK

              Dr. Tai-Ping Fan

              Table 2

              GP-TCM non-beneficiary members

              GP-TCM Non-beneficiary partners

              Country

              Contact

              University of Western Sydney

              Australia

              Prof. Alan Bensoussan

              University of Graz

              Austria

              Prof. Rudolf Bauer

              University of Mons

              Belgium

              Prof. Jean-Marie Colet

              Beijing East Linden Science and Technology Co. Ltd.

              China

              Prof. Yanhuai Liu

              China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences

              China

              Prof. Aiping Lu

              China-Japan Friendship Hospital

              China

              Prof. Ping Li

              Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics

              China

              Prof. Xinmiao Liang

              Hong Kong Baptist University

              China

              Prof. Zhongzhen Zhao

              Hong Kong Buddhist Hospital

              China

              Prof. Vivian Wong

              Jinan University

              China

              Prof. Xinsheng Yao

              Peking University

              China

              Prof. Wenhan Lin

              PuraPharm

              China

              Mr. Abraham Chan

              Shanghai Innovation Research Centre of Traditional Medicine

              China

              Prof. William Weiguo Jia

              Shanghai Jiaotong University

              China

              Prof. Liping Zhao

              Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences

              China

              Prof. De-an Guo

              Tongji University

              China

              Prof. Gang Pei

              Tasly Institute of Tasly Group Co., Ltd.

              China

              Ms. Karolina J. Svedlund

              Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine

              China

              Prof. Boli Zhang

              University of Macau

              China

              Prof. Yi-Tao Wang

              The Chinese University of Hong Kong

              China

              Prof. Ge Lin

              Pfizer Corporation Hong Kong Ltd

              China

              Mr. Stephen Leung

              State Food and Drug Administration

              China

              Prof. Zhong-zhi Qian

              National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine, Taiwan

              China

              Prof. Yi-Tsau Huang

              University of Aarhus

              Denmark

              Prof. Brian Clark

              University of Oulu

              Finland

              Prof. Olavi Pelkonen

              Public Research Centre of Health

              Luxembourg

              Dr. Ning Wang

              Charité University Medical Center

              Germany

              Prof. Claudia M. Witt

              Johannes Gutenberg University

              Germany

              Dr. Huige Li

              University of Regensburg

              Germany

              Prof. Gerhard Franz

              Philipps - Universität Marburg

              Germany

              Prof. Shuming Li

              Max Planck Institute for Biophysics

              Germany

              Prof. Wolfgang Schwarz

              Dr Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG

              Germany

              Dr. Günter Meng

              Caesar & Loretz GmbH

              Germany

              Dr. Mirko Bayer

              University of Cagliari

              Italy

              Prof. Enzo Tramontano

              University of Rome Tor Vergata

              Italy

              Prof. Giovanna M. Franconi

              Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, Italian National Research Council

              Italy

              Dr. Luigi Manni

              SU BioMedicine

              The Netherlands

              Prof. Jan van der Greef

              Norwegian University of Science and Technology

              Norway

              Prof. Odd Georg Nilsen

              Thailand Ministry of Public Health

              Thailand

              Dr. Prat Boonyawongviroj

              School of Pharmacy

              UK

              Prof. Michael Heinrich

              Brunel University

              UK

              Prof. Ian A. Sutherland

              University of Reading

              UK

              Prof. Elizabeth Williamson

              Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

              UK

              Prof. Debbie Shaw

              University of Nottingham

              UK

              Prof. Sue Watson

              University of Warwick

              UK

              Prof. Kenneth Muir

              University of Westminster

              UK

              Dr. Volker Scheid

              University of Lincoln

              UK

              Dr. Huijun Shen

              Thames Valley University

              UK

              Prof. Nicola Robinson

              University of the West England

              UK

              Prof. Quan Min Zhu

              Imperial College London

              UK

              Dr. Daqing Ma

              Global Regulatory Services

              UK

              Mrs. Greer Deal

              Link China Pharma Solutions

              UK

              Mr. Marshall Ma

              University of Oxford

              UK

              Ms. Rebecca Richmond

              University of East London

              UK

              Dr. Tianjun Wang

              Pharsafer Associates Limited

              UK

              Dr. Graeme Ladds

              Avicenna

              UK

              Mr. Mazin Al-Khafaji

              University of Louisville

              USA

              Prof. Y. James Kang

              Yale University

              USA

              Prof. Yung-Chi Cheng

              U.S. Food and Drug Administration

              USA

              Dr. Shaw T. Chen

              Vanderbilt University Medical Center

              USA

              Dr. Lijun Ma

              Independent

              UK

              Dr. Shouming Zhong

              Independent

              UK

              Dr. Daryl Rees

              Progress and difficulties

              During the first 18 months of the project (May 2009-October 2010), the management team (WP10) has coordinated a highly successful team build-up and re-construction. With the ever-strengthening expertise pool, WP10 has developed a number of committees and panels that lead the consortium with clear divisions of labour. WP10 has led the design and updates of the professional GP-TCM website and all WPs have established their homepages and online discussion facilities. Periodic newsletters have enabled members to share information and stay as a united team. Significantly, a series of face-to-face meetings, including consortium and WP kick-off meetings and the 1st Annual General Meeting, have been organised to monitor the consortium, promote interactions and collaborations and ensure milestones are met and deliverables accomplished on time and in high quality.

              Noteworthy WP-specific achievements are as follows. WP1 led the creation of a list of nearly 300 species of plants and fungi commonly used in TCM in Europe and China and a priority list of 11 species will be used by all WPs in their initial literature analysis. WP2 worked jointly with WP1, linking quality control, extraction technology and chemical analysis, with special emphasis on the important role of paozhi (processing) in the production of CHM. WP3 produced a list of toxic plants for further literature study and identified 3 major fields of action: (i) investigation of methods (classical and functional genomics) applicable to toxicity evaluation; (ii) study of toxicological reports available on a series of CHM; (iii) review of pharmacovigilance safety data. WP4 established evaluation criteria for scoring scientific articles and began the creation of an appropriate database of literature encompassing functional genomic applications in CHM research. WP5 performed reviews on CHM literature involving animal models, especially models of cancer and its conclusions have laid a solid foundation for further literature analysis on application of functional genomics in CHM research and proposing good practice in animal studies of CHM. WP6 gathered literature on seminal studies in clinical CHM studies and drafted a guideline on clinical trials of CHM. WP6 and WP8 collaboratively designed an online survey targeting TCM practitioners and the survey is currently undergoing in collaboration with 30 professional acupuncture and TCM organisations. WP7 brought together wide-ranging experiences and expertise in drug development and registration from Europe, China, Australia and North America to discuss the legislative and regulatory issues relevant to CHM. Together they are developing a comprehensive document providing comparisons of different practices on CHM regulations and this will be extremely helpful for the EU to develop its future policies and for companies to develop products for the global market. WP9 discussed the time and format of the Final Conference and preliminary bookings of venue has been made.

              The major difficulty encountered by the consortium is unsurprisingly the language barrier. There is a lack of accessibility to original Chinese publications in Europe, and even if they are available, fast and accurate translation of these materials is impossible, preventing the consortium from extensively studying classic Chinese medical literature and evaluating a great deal of modern Chinese medical literature. While we strongly encourage our members to master both English and Chinese languages, we welcome members from various linguistic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds to work in close collaboration.

              Further work

              As the first ever EU-China collaborative consortium dedicated to TCM research, we will continue to promote EU-China dialogues and collaborations in this important emerging supra-disciplinary area. As a network of principal investigators, we will collaborate to train the next generation of scientists who are more comprehensively equipped to study complex drugs such as CHM and personalised medicine such as TCM. As a coordination action involving much literature review and evaluation, we acknowledge the huge importance of good practice in scientific publication and will continue to support open-access publications.

              Concluding remarks

              As an EU-China collaboration dedicated to TCM research, we are keen to incorporate ourselves into the worldwide landscape of TCM research community and serve as a constructive member. We sincerely support the international TCM community to bundle forces to improve TCM research funding from both the public and private sectors and to help shape the medicine of tomorrow together.

              Abbreviations

              CGCM: 

              Consortium for Globalisation of Chinese Medicine

              CHM: 

              Chinese herbal medicines

              EU: 

              European Union

              FP7: 

              Seventh Framework Programme

              GP-TCM: 

              Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-genomic Era

              ICPC: 

              International Cooperation Partner Country

              ISCM: 

              International Society for Chinese Medicine

              TCM: 

              Traditional Chinese medicine

              WFCMS: 

              World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies

              WPs: 

              work packages.

              Declarations

              Acknowledgements

              This work has received funding from the European Union's Framework Programme 7 [FP7/2007-2013] under the grant agreement No 223154. The consortium thanks the European Commission for the grant, and the Chinese government, Innovation China UK and many other advisory bodies for their generous support.

              Authors’ Affiliations

              (1)
              Department of Renal Medicine, King's College London
              (2)
              Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge
              (3)
              CITAB-UM, Department of Biology, University of Minho
              (4)
              Shanghai Research Centre for TCM Modernization, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences
              (5)
              School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong

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              Copyright

              © Uzuner et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010

              This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (<url>http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0</url>), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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