Institute of Dermatology

The Institute of Dermatology was established as the Central Institute of Dermatovenereology by the Ministry of Health in 1954, with the aim of having a professional institution for planning, coordinating, and implementing the nationwide campaign to eliminate sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The institute played a leading role in that campaign with a program of research on detection and treatment, which culminated in 1964, and made a significant contribution to the national elimination of the diseases. The institute then shifted its research priorities to other public health issues: leprosy and tinea capitis (a fungal infection affecting the scalp). One of its contributions to the national leprosy control program has been to organize clinical trials to validate multidrug therapy—consisting of rifampicin, dapsone, and clofazimine—in a large cohort of patients and to scale up this regimen as a standard treatment nationwide. It has also monitored drug resistance and kept track of the disabilities resulting from leprosy. The institute has made great strides in bringing the disease under control: Leprosy declined from a peak of 23.5 cases per 100,000 people in 1966 to 0.293 cases per 100,000 in 2014, with the disease virtually eliminated in 95.6% of China’s 2,875 counties. The institute’s research and its development of strategies for combatting STDs, leprosy, and tinea capitis were awarded the top honors in the National Science and Technology Progress Awards and the National Science and Technology Congress Awards. Since it joined CAMS in 1957, the institute has been committed to research on the pathogenesis, epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of skin diseases including STDs, and to developing drugs to combat them.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the institute set up a study team to conduct research on the chemical, pharmacological, and toxicological characteristics and clinical performance of the traditional Chinese herb, Tripterygium wilfordii [Figure to show the herb sample]. The studies found that the herb could play an important role in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The study team isolated and optimized the active components of the herb, which have subsequently been used to develop a drug that is now widely used for the treatment of various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in China.

Development of the Tripterygium glycosides was certificated as the first category of new drug in the country. In 1984, the institute conducted the first nationwide epidemiological survey of psoriasis, covering a study population of nearly 7 million, which provided the data for estimating the prevalence of the disease. In recent years, studies on the clinical diagnosis and management of rare and difficult-to-treat skin diseases have become one of the research priorities of the institute.

A number of the skin diseases diagnosed in China, including diffuse melanosis with guttate depigmented macules or “black spot disease,” symmetric acrokeratosis, and idiopathic dermal elastolysis in children, are the first reported cases worldwide. Institute scientists were also the first to identify and report on Ochroconis tshauytschae, a fungus that is pathogenic in human beings.
In 1984, the Hospital for Skin Diseases was established within the institute, expanding its mandate to include clinic-based services for patients with skin diseases, including STDs. The hospital is one of the biggest in the country treating skin diseases, serving a large number of people on an inpatient and outpatient basis. It has an expert staff and a wealth of clinical departments, diagnostic and treatment equipment, and in-house drugs for topical use. The institute also acts as the National Center for STD Control and the National Center for Leprosy Control, assisting the National Health and Family Planning Commission in developing and coordinating the national program of STD and leprosy control and providing technical support to local health authorities on implementing these programs. In addition, as the Medical Mycology Center of the China Committee for Culture Collection of Microorganisms, the institute is responsible for preserving the standard strains of medical fungi and providing support for the detection and identification of rare strains. The institute has been certified as a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Prevention and Control of STDs, providing technical consultations and support to other countries. As a teaching institute of PUMC, the institute offers doctoral and Master’s degree programs in dermatovenereology and is designated as a teaching base by the Ministry of Education to provide training for dermatologists.

The institute has nearly 400 faculty and staff members, including experts of national and international standing in areas ranging from the basic sciences and epidemiology to clinical diagnosis and treatment. Its scientists have published more than 5,000 research papers in national or international peer-reviewed journals.