Share on

About the author

ThaoNguyen Nguyen
ThaoNguyen Nguyen

This is the part II of the blog post on Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you didn´t have the opportunity to read the first part please click here

4.  21st century TCM Innovations               

Since the discovery of antimalarial Artemisinin, industrialisation and commercialisation of TCM were catapulted into the early 21st century by multinational pharmaceutical companies.  Most notable examples include the development of Mevacor by Merck to lower cholesterol for people who suffer from hypercholesterolemia.

The compound is a statin and gets hydrolysed to ß-hydroxy acid after admission into the body, before interfering with cholesterol biosynthesis and production.  This naturally occurring compound can be found in red yeast rice  (Monascus Purpureus),  used in China in the Tang dynasty. The production of antiviral Roche’s Tamiflu, for example, depends on shikimic acid which is isolated from star anise, an old Chinese cooking spice.  A poor supply of star anise  in 2005 led to an internationalshortage ofTamiflu.


5:  Openness of TCM

 Recent interest in TCM to meet global demand for -academia collaborations  traditional herbal products in non-Western societies has encouraged companies to cooperate openly to find sustainable solutions for the  healthcare industry’s shared problems.  In 2006 and 2007 Merck KGaA and Eli Lilly collaborated with Hong Kong based Hutchison Chi-Med to develop cancer drugs and therapy from Chinese herbs.  Food giant Nestle also established a joint venture with Hutchison Chi-Med to developnutritional and medicinal products in 2012.


With the global market for TCM valued at $83 bn, it is no  surprise that many multinational companies have been keen to invest.  GSK established a TCM strategy in 2012, and Anglo-Dutch FMCG giant Reckitt Benckiser acquired China’s Oriental Medicine Group in 2013 to expand its healthcare portfolio.  This new view on TCM adopted by the industry has also stimulated industry-academia scientific collaborations.  A new anti-flu TCM formula was  developed through the collaboration between Singaporean based TCM company Eu Yan Sang and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Encouragingly, this new TCM breeze doesn’t just flow from West to East.  Owner of  Hutchison Chi-Med Sir Li Ka Shing donated £20 million to the University of Oxford to establish the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery, which will help revolutionise healthcare through big data and better drug discovery.

No longer existing just as myths, TCM should be given the scientific merit that has long been overdue in Western science communities.  An openness approach to the over 2,000 year-old discipline will certainly nurture sustainable innovations to benefit mankind.


Related content: