Senior scientist suggests traditional Chinese medicine development plan to avoid external blockade in two sessions

Cheng Jing, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Photo: CGV

Citing a lesson from the war in Iraq in which the total embargo launched by the United States seriously harmed the lives of ordinary people in Iraq, a deputy of the National People’s Congress suggests that China formulate a scientific plan on the development of its traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and to encourage other disciplines, such as biological information technologies, artificial technologies, chemical and materials sciences, to better integrate with the development of TCM in order to avoid a scenario where the country’s medical field would one day be “neck-shocked”.

“When the United States launched a war against Iraq and ordered a complete embargo, no aircraft from any country could fly there. Although the United States targeted the Iraqi military, it affected the ordinary people, leaving many patients without life-saving medicines and medical equipment. This is an issue that deserves consideration and vigilance,” said NPC Deputy Cheng Jing, who is a renowned medical biophysicist from China’s leading Tsinghua University and a Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

“In modern society, if we face extreme confinement, what can we give up? We may not need to use our cell phones, drive and watch TV. But what happens? if we have a serious illness? I don’t think we would give up on saving lives if we had the chance,” Cheng said in an interview with the Global Times on Monday.

Under extreme conditions, such as a large-scale war or a trade war, if it had spread to the medical field, China’s medical system would face a great crisis, Cheng said.

Cheng explained that many medicines in China still depend on imports, and reagents can only be used with imported medical instruments and equipment. Since they have an expiration date, these medical supplies cannot be purchased in large quantities and stored for 10 or 20 years as strategic supplies.

To nip in the bud, Cheng submitted a proposal to the two current sessions. Cheng proposed that China establish a national laboratory for the development and facilitate the integration of traditional Chinese medicine with Western medicine. The academician believes that it is difficult to promote the development of traditional Chinese medicine by relying only on experts in the field.

“Other disciplines, such as biological information technology, artificial technology, chemical and material science, should be used to promote its development,” Cheng said.

For example, if we reinforce TCM diagnosis with AI technology, we can avoid a situation where a patient stands in front of 10 TCM doctors and gets 10 diagnoses, Cheng said, pointing out that if TCM does not cannot be digitized, it cannot be standardized and as a result, it cannot be internationalized.

According to Cheng, his team analyzed 125 TCM prescriptions for curing COVID-19 through genetic and bioinformatics technology, and then made evaluations on the prescriptions based on the experimental results on two groups of patients: one with a weak immunity while the other with strong immunity.

The results were later published in Nature Magazine, which Cheng said met with enthusiastic reception from many international experts as it provided them, especially those with little knowledge of TCM, with a better understanding of its contribution to the fight against COVID-19.

Cheng noted that it will be a new path for the development of TCM so that it can be promoted around the world. Combined with technology, the diagnostic treatment of TCM will be greatly improved so that it can benefit more people.