Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology

The Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology, CAMS/PUMC, was founded in 1958 as the Institute of Antibiotics, a National Key Institute for developing drugs to combat infectious diseases. The birthplace of penicillin in China, the institute has a history of discovering and developing antimicrobials, nurturing researchers, and industrializing antibiotics. It has contributed significantly to the prevention and treatment of serious infectious diseases. As Chinese society changed and biological sciences advanced, the research fields encompassed by the institute were extended to include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and immunoregulation. In 1987, the institute’s name was changed to its current moniker.

Today, the institute has 296 staff and faculty members—60 of whom are principle investigators—and 147 graduate students. Members of the faculty include Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the Chair Professor of Cheung-Kong Scholars, the National Creative Research Groups, the National Distinguished Young Scholars and Excellent Young Scientists. Over the past 15 years, the institute has become one of the primary centers of translational research, drug research and development, and biotechnology education in China.

Departments: The institute has 10 research departments: Microbial Chemistry, Bioengineering, Microbial Pathway Engineering, Virology, Pharmacology, Cancer Research, Immunology, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Pharmaceutics. The ministerial or key laboratories affiliated with the institute include the China Pharmaceutical Culture Collection Center, the Key Laboratory for New Microbial Drug Screening, and the Key Laboratory of the Biotechnology of Antibiotics of the Ministry of Health.

Research areas: Research at the institute focuses on the discovery of drugs from microbes and plants, and on biotech drugs, for combatting infectious diseases, cancers, and metabolic disorders. Research areas include biotechnology, medicinal chemistry, microbiology, cell biology, bioengineering, microbial metabolites, synthetic biology, molecular pharmacology and target identification, chemical biology, drug metabolism and toxicology, drug formulation, and resources and informatics.

Scientific achievements: In the past 60 years, the institute has established more than 250 drug screening models and procedures for the identification of new drugs. More than 90 new or generic drugs have been investigated at the institute. Of these, 60 drugs—including generic penicillin, kanamycin, gentamycin, griseofulvin, vancomycin, spiramycin, pingyanymycin, boanmycin, and the quinolones antibiotics—have been developed and are in clinical use in China. More than 50% of all novel antibiotics approved by the CFDA originated at the institute from 1950s. These include norvancomycin, pingyangmycin, and kelimycin. More than 90% of all novel antibiotics in China have been evaluated at the institute.

Since the beginning of the 11th National Five-Year-Plan in 2007, the institute has carried out approximately 300 research projects, including the National High Technology Research and Development Program (the 863 Program), the National Program on Key Basic Research Project of China (the 973 Program), the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative (Gates Foundation /FNIH), the National Science and Technology Major-Project on Infectious Diseases, and the National Science and Technology Major-project for Innovative Drugs. In recent years, the institute has been awarded more than 10 patents annually. In 2012, the institute won the National Award for Progress in Science and Technology for contributions to antimicrobial research; and in 2013, it was granted a National Award for the Natural Sciences for discovering the botanic compound berberine, a novel and safe lipid-lowering agent for patients with hyperlipidemia and type II diabetes.

Each year, institute scientists publish approximately 80 papers in the Science Citation Index-listed journals. The first berberine research article, published in Nature Medicine in 2004, was considered one of top innovative drug discovery articles in China. Recently, 10 research tool books have been published by institute scientists and are playing an important role in pharmaceutical research and education.