China Announces Major Research Centers in Beijing and Shenzhen

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5:30 PM HKT, Wed April 11, 2018 2 mins read

Two blips on the radar as China aims to up its scientific and medical research game on the international stage.

First up: Scientific American recently reported on a major new brain-science center in the works in Beijing:

The Chinese Institute for Brain Research was officially established in Beijing on 22 March, with an agreement signed by representatives of the Beijing municipality and seven research organizations based in the capital. The agreement named two neuroscientists—Peking University’s Rao Yi and Luo Minmin of the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing—as co-directors.

This is a major step for China’s brain research efforts, following years of discussion. With this new Institute, the country’s top neuroscientists are looking to create an organization that can remain competitive with similar projects put into motion by Barack Obama in the United States and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne in 2013.

According to Scientific American, Beijing’s venture — which will draw together organizations including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Peking University, and Tsinghua University — seeks to leverage a “rapidly growing cadre of top neuroscientists, abundant supplies of research monkeys, the country’s heavy burden of people with neurological diseases and its big investments in brain-imaging facilities.”

Read the full report here.


Meanwhile, down south, a new facility funded by China’s CheerLand Investment Group is seeking to gain instant credibility by tacking the name of one of the world’s greatest living scientists on to its building.

The Cheerland-Watson Center for Life Sciences and Technology, writes Science magazine, is “intended to rival prestigious biomedical research centers in the West,” and was announced at an event in Shenzhen last month.

The “Watson” in the name is James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. According to Science‘s article, a biochemist attached to the project named Fu Xinyuan roped Watson into the operation, in part, by appealing to the esteemed biologist’s vanity:

Fu jokes he pointed out to Watson that there was no institute bearing his name, even though one in London is dedicated to Francis Crick, Watson’s partner in the discovery of the helical structure of DNA.

Watson visited Shenzhen earlier this month to “see possible sites for the laboratory,” and attended the opening ceremony of a related facility, the SUSTech-Cheerland Institute of Precision Medicine. His relations with the CheerLand group seem to have frayed a bit since then, however:

Watson thought the center would focus on cancer drug discovery. But an announcement on the website of Shenzhen’s Dapeng New District, where the center is located, makes one mention of cancer cell immunotherapy, while identifying “precision medicine” as a main focus. Aside from the land, Watson says his name “hasn’t drawn any money from Shenzhen.” […]

“I wish these people luck,” says Watson, who will keep working with CheerLand for the time being. But “I don’t think this particular effort is going to happen unless somebody comes forward with a lot of money.”

Read more here.

Cover image: Architectural rendering of the proposed Cheerland-Watson Center for Life Sciences and Technology (Science/CheerLand)

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