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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2002

Yiming Shao, National Center for AIDS Prevention and Control, Beijing, China


Dr. Yiming Shao, MD (Qingdao Medical School 1983) and PhD (Institute of Virology Beijing 1988), was Deputy Director of Departments of Tumor Viruses and HIV (1989-1995), Professor and Director of AIDS Reference Lab (1996-1996) of the institute. He was the Deputy Director National AIDS Center (NCAIDS) and Director of National AIDS Reference Laboratory during its funding period in 1998-2001. In order to focus on research, he is serving as the Chief Expert and the Director of Division of Research on Virology and Immunology in the NCAIDS. He has organized several national molecular epidemiology surveys building up database containing thousands of sequences of 8 HIV-1 clades, as well as viral strains, sera and cell samples. His team has developed VLP and DNA vaccines together with German scientists and live vaccine using Chinese vaccinia vector. They have systematically studied the first lentivirus vaccines (EIAV vaccines developed in China) and used the knowledge designing novel HIV vaccine. He currently chairs both subcommittees on Virology and Clinical Research in National AIDS Expert Committee and the subcommittee on Virology in Chinese Microbiology Society and is serving on Editorial Board of AIDS since 1996.


Infectious disease control in China: Shift from public domination to the public and private partnership

"Prevention First" was the cornerstone of national health policy of the People's Republic of China from late 1940s to the 1980s. This policy resulted in great strides in public health for the world's most populous nation. With a planned economy, the public sector had prime responsibility for organizing and maintaining the health infrastructure including production of pharmaceutical and biological products. The nation-wide systems of primary health care, anti-epidemic networks and township hospitals as well as community organizations played important roles in implementing national health campaigns, immunization programs and numerous disease control and eradication projects. The nation's research and development institutes, which were fully supported by Health Ministry and provincial governments, produced diagnostic reagents, preventive vaccines and other biologics, and therapeutic drugs for these national health programs. During the period many infectious diseases were brought under control including the near elimination of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The life expectancy of the Chinese population rose from 40.8 years in 1950 to 70.8 years in 1990.

The rapidly evolving environments brought China a new challenge of double disease burdens. The country is facing both remerging infectious disease like STD and TB and emerging infectious diseases such as AIDS and the rapid appearance of heart and vascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Since the open door policy started in the late 1970s, the economic system in China has been converted from central planning to the so-called socialism market economy. The GDP contribution has been changed from close to 100% state owned to more than 50% private and joint ventures. Responsibility for delivery of health care and public health programs has been shifted from the central Government to the provinces and local governments, which lack the resources to maintain the health infrastructure, especially in rural regions where 80% of the 1.3 billion Chinese live. Funding for health research and development has also fallen by 80%. In the bio-chemical, bio-medical and pharmaceutical industry, the state owned economy has decreased from 55% to 36%, while joint stock and foreign participated stock companies have increased from 12% to 33% and 15% to 19% respectively, in the last 5 years. With the profit increasing each year, foreign investments have expended more rapidly, and the state owned share will decrease more rapidly in the future.

These problems have caused health planners to explore novel ways to deal with new challenges of infectious disease control in China. The real challenge to the country is how to form efficient partnerships between public and private sectors as well as between government and NGOs while maintaining the best of traditional systems and drawing lessons from the models outside the country. Research will be needed to design and evaluate these systems. This goal will not be accomplished overnight; it will require a learning process among health authorities, professionals, investors and all related components of society both at home and abroad.