China / Society

New drug could offer hope for children

By Luo Wangshu (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-28 07:38

A potential new drug may bring hope to the more than 2.5 million children diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease in China each year.

The Institute Pasteur of Shanghai of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which developed the drug, signed a patent transfer agreement on Monday with Hainan-based Honz Pharmaceutical to continue clinical testing and research.

"There is no special treatment available that could cure or prevent the serious consequences of the disease," said Ralf Altmeyer, general director of the institute, who led the research team.

HFMD is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5. The majority of patients have only mild symptoms and soon recover. However, some patients may be seriously affected by the virus, which causes severe brain infections and other complications.

"Since 2010, about 100,000 children have suffered serious brain infections and cardiopulmonary complications, requiring treatment in intensive care units," Altmeyer said.

In 2014, about 2.56 million children in China were diagnosed with HFMD, and 20,000 of them became severely ill, said Leng Qibin, an immunologist from the institute.

"In all, 498 children died of the disease in 2014," Leng said.

Other Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia, have also been affected by HFMD.

Altmeyer said the medicine was an outcome of successful cooperation between Chinese and international researchers.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences, China's top science institute, encourages more international cooperation in academia and aims to attract more foreign researchers.

The academy released an outline for reform in August saying that foreign researchers will account for 3 percent of all academy researchers by 2020, up from 1 percent.

It is also a good example of technology cooperation between academia and production, which China's top authorities are encouraging.

"We do what we are good at," Altmeyer said.

"Academic science and pharmaceutical development are sometimes like two different worlds. The agreement is a great example that they can be good partners, when they are driven by a common vision, and focus on the common objective," he said.

"It is the start of the joint effort to make a major contribution to public health."

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