This year the SSSTC (Sino-Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation) has held series of Stepping Stone Symposia in China. The latest symposium on natural products and drug discovery was jointly held by SIMM (Shanghai Insititute of Materia Medica) and ETH Zurich in Shanghai on 24th -26th October.
The Swiss General Consul Mr. Heinrich Schellenberg and his wife Mrs Grisel Schellenberg welcomed the Swiss delegation and the Chinese guests with a dinner reception at their residence in Shanghai on the previous evening. Mr. Schellenberg stressed the long history of good relationship between Switzerland and China. He expressed his pleasure to see so many Swiss and Chinese experts on such a high level coming together, sharing their ideas and building up friendship with each other. Mr. Pascal Marmier, the Director of swissnex China, also gave a welcome speech at the dinner. Mr. Marmier gave a brief introduction on swissnex’s mission and its current projects. He encouraged both the Swiss and Chinese scientists as well as industrial players to utilize the great opportunities and support from swissnex to establish closer relationship and more collaborations with each other.
The scientific program of the symposium was opened by Prof. Ye Yang, Deputy Director of SIMM. Prof. Ye mentioned that Prof. Chenggu Zhao, founder of SIMM, had obtained his PhD degree from University of Geneva in 1914. Based on this history with Switzerland, he looked forwards to connecting more scientists from the both countries. The Swiss speakers were from the top universities in Switzerland, e.g. ETH Zurich, EPFL, University of Basel, and from large Swiss pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis and Roche. The Chinese speakers were from the top universities and research institutes in the areas of natural product and drug discovery, e.g. Beijing University, SIMM, Kunming Institute of Botany, etc. Chinese graduate students and young researchers from relevant fields also attended the talks. Besides the talks, the poster sessions provided great opportunities for interaction between the speakers and audience in a relaxed and personal atmosphere.
Prof. Karl Gademann from University of Basel considered this symposium a great opportunity to bring the top researchers from both countries together. He said that the wide spectrum of talks and participants made this symposium especially interesting and the personal chats during dinner time was also very inspiring for him.
Prof. Bernd Wollscheid from ETH Zurich has gained a more concrete idea about the people and the institute in China during the symposium. His lab in Zurich mainly focuses on system biology, cellular signaling, biomedical proteomics. Prof. Bernd stressed that international collaboration are critical for systems biology research in the context of drug discovery. Complex research projects expertise from various research fields. Currently his laboratory collaborates mainly with the US, UK, Chile, Singapore, etc. But he is also very interested in establishing technology-orientated collaborations with Chinese partners, and has been in discussion with some potential partners in China. He commented this symposium in Shanghai as thought-provoking. He said that the symposium put the right person together and personal contacts and a casual scientific atmosphere is crucial to establish long-term collaborations.
Mr. Antonie Grellet who speaks very well Chinese is a Swiss liaison officer and also a student at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine. His current research project at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine aims to understand the herb-drug interaction in cancer treatment. To understand the prevalence of herbs use during chemotherapy he needs support to find the suitable clinical data and the best clinical experience. China has a great clinical data base for the combined treatment with herbs and western drugs, but many useful literatures and information in this area are documented in Chinese. Therefore, a Chinese partner would accelerate his research and provide more insight into this area. This symposium gathered a great number of Chinese experts in this area. During the symposium he has already fund a potential partner for his research.
The symposium was closed with a round table discussion. A second Stepping Stone Symposium on Natural Products and Drug Discovery will be held in Switzerland next year.
Contributed by Meijun Liu, Academic Intern