Professor Qi-de Han, dean of Peking University Health Sciences Center in Beijing, China, visited Emory University's Woodruff Health Sciences Center this week to discuss research and educational partnerships between the two institutions. Officials from Emory and Peking University signed a memorandum of understanding for scientific collaboration during a visit to China last October by an Emory delegation including President James Wagner, Provost Earl Lewis, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Michael Johns, Vice President for Academic Health Affairs Jeffrey Koplan and several Emory scientists.
During Professor Han's visit, Michael M.E. Johns, MD, Emory executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, presented him Emory's Woodruff Medal for his scientific career of distinction.
Professor Han's long relationship with Emory and the Woodruff Health Sciences Center began in 1985 when, as a faculty member at Peking University, he was invited by Emory President James Laney to be a postdoctoral fellow for two years in the Department of Pharmacology in Emory University School of Medicine. Then for seven years, beginning in 1989, he returned to the pharmacology department for three months each year to conduct joint study and research in the laboratory of Emory pharmacologist Kenneth P. Minneman.
"The mission of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center is 'making people healthy', and global health is one of the themes of Emory's strategic plan," explained Dr. Johns. "Emory has strong global partnerships in medicine and public health through our schools of medicine, public health and nursing and our partnership with the CDC. This scientific collaboration with Peking University Health Sciences Center creates an exciting opportunity for Emory to create a meaningful partnership with the premier academic health center in China."
After receiving the Woodruff Medal, Professor Han said, "I firmly believe that in cooperation, we will be able to accelerate the development of the two institutions and make even greater achievements. Maybe we should broaden our vision from our two universities to our two nations. The United States and China are both great nations, and there has been a tradition of friendship between our two peoples. In the face of economic globalization, the two countries become even closer with common interests in broad areas. We have every reason to believe that Sino-U.S. relations will be getting better and that Chinese and Americans will enjoy friendships for generations, for ever and ever."
Plans are underway for joint research projects between the two universities related to genetics and cancer. Peking University Professor Zhu Li has collaborated with investigators at Emory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for many years on epidemiological research related to birth defects. Dr. Li is the Chinese leader of the international team that conducted the definitive studies demonstrating that folate supplementation during pregnancy greatly reduces the incidence of neural tube defects ("spina bifida"). Dr. Li has established a network of research field stations throughout China.
Joseph Cubells, PhD, and Michael Zwick, PhD, faculty members in the Department of Human Genetics in Emory University School of Medicine, are planning to work with Dr. Li and his colleagues to collect large numbers of DNA samples in China for studies of genetic differences in susceptibility to infectious diseases, birth defects and mental illness. Field trials in China, scheduled to begin soon, will establish the technical aspects of successful DNA collection. "We are very excited at the prospect of collaborating with our Chinese colleagues on a wide variety of genetic studies that will ultimately benefit both of our great nations," said Dr. Cubells.
Haian Fu, PhD, professor of pharmacology and oncology in Emory School of Medicine, is working with his Chinese colleagues to develop research collaborations in cancer and drug discovery and to identify potential exchange scholars who could train in Emory laboratories in cancer biology and pharmacology. Clinical interactions between Emory's Winship Cancer Institute and the Peking University Health Sciences Center Cancer Hospital could eventually include joint clinical trials for new drug development.
In addition, the Emory University program in Population Biology, Ecology and Evolution has recruited a graduate student from Peking University who will receive a prestigious Emory Woodruff Fellowship.