Emory Report
April 3, 2006
Volume 58, Number 25


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April 3, 2006
Dean's visit marks progress of Emory-Peking relationship

BY holly korschun

Professor Qi-de Han, dean of Peking University Health Sciences Center in Beijing, visited Emory last week to discuss research and educational partnerships between the two institutions. Last October, officials from the two schools signed a memorandum of understanding for scientific collaboration during a visit to China by an Emory delegation that included President Jim Wagner, Provost Earl Lewis, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Michael Johns, Vice President for Academic Health Affairs Jeffrey Koplan and several University scientists.

During Han’s visit to Atlanta on March 27, Johns presented him with Emory’s Woodruff Medal for his scientific career of distinction.

Han’s long relationship with Emory and the Woodruff Health Sciences Center began in 1985 when, as a Peking faculty member, he was invited by former Emory President Jim Laney to be a visiting scholar in pharmacology. For the next seven years, he returned to Atlanta for three months each year to conduct joint study and research in the laboratory of Emory pharmacologist Kenneth Minneman.

“The mission of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center is ‘making people healthy,’ and global health is one of the themes of Emory’s strategic plan,” Johns said. “Emory has strong global partnerships in medicine and public health through our schools of medicine, public health and nursing and through our partnership with the CDC. This scientific collaboration with Peking University Health Sciences Center creates an exciting opportunity for Emory to create a meaningful partnership with the premier academic health center in China.”
“I firmly believe that, in cooperation, we will be able to … accelerate the development of the two institutions and make even greater achievements,” Han said after receiving the Woodruff Medal. “Maybe we should broaden our vision from our two universities to our two nations.

“The United States and China are both great nations, and there has been a tradition of friendship between our two peoples,” he continued. “In the face of economic globalization, the two countries become even closer with common interests in broad areas. We have every reason to believe that Sino-U.S. relations will be getting better and that Chinese and Americans will enjoy friendships for generations.”

Plans are under way for joint research projects between the two universities related to genetics and cancer. Peking University Professor Li Zhu has collaborated with Emory and CDC investigators for years on epidemiological research related to birth defects. Li is the Chinese leader of the international team that conducted the definitive studies demonstrating that folate supplementation during pregnancy greatly reduces the incidence of neural tube defects (spina bifida). Li has established a network of research field stations throughout China.

Joseph Cubells and Michael Zwick, both Emory faculty in human genetics, are planning to work with Li and his colleagues to collect large numbers of DNA samples in China for studies of genetic differences in susceptibility to infectious diseases, birth defects and mental illness. Field trials in China, scheduled to begin soon, will establish the technical aspects of successful DNA collection.

“We are very excited at the prospect of collaborating with our Chinese colleagues on a wide variety of genetic studies that will ultimately benefit both of our great nations,” Cubells said.

Haian Fu, professor of pharmacology and oncology at Emory, is working with his Chinese colleagues to develop research collaborations in cancer and drug discovery and to identify potential exchange scholars who could train in Emory laboratories in cancer biology and pharmacology. Clinical interactions between Winship Cancer Institute and the Peking Health Sciences Center Cancer Hospital could eventually include joint clinical trials for new drug development.

In addition, Emory’s program in population biology, ecology and evolution has recruited a Peking graduate student who will receive a prestigious Woodruff Fellowship.