Skype at night connects S.A. researcher to Chinese laboratory
Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579
SAN ANTONIO (June 26, 2012) — What does a U.S. academic health center receive in exchange for allowing one of its top professors to spend a few weeks in China each year? More than just travel tips, officials at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio say.
Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, a teaching hospital in the city of Changsha, China, established a Metabolic Syndrome Research Center, and this spring recruited Feng Liu, Ph.D., to be founding director. Dr. Liu is currently professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center. He is also a member of the Barshop Institute for Aging and Longevity Studies at the Health Science Center.
Dr. Liu studies one of the hottest topics in the diabetes field — adiponectin, which is secreted from fat tissue. Fat is composed of adipocyte and non-adipocyte cells. Many hormones and proteins are secreted from both types of cells and can behave both malevolently and benevolently. Adiponectin, one of the beneficial hormones, helps insulin to control blood sugar and has anti-diabetic functions. It is an insulin sensitizer.
Central South University and Second Xiangya Hospital invested 30 million yuan ($5 million in U.S. currency) to establish and equip the Metabolic Syndrome Research Center. Dr. Liu; David Weiss, Ph.D., vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the UT Health Science Center; and Alan Frazer, Ph.D., professor and chair of pharmacology in the School of Medicine, recently visited Changsha to sign an agreement of collaboration between the Health Science Center, Second Xiangya Hospital and the newly minted metabolic center.
Dr. Liu has fewer than 10 people in his lab in San Antonio whereas more than 30 will work in his center at Changsha. “Here is a guy who runs labs on opposite sides of the globe,” Dr. Weiss said. “While he performs graduate teaching and Ph.D. student training here, he directs research activities in the Metabolic Syndrome Research Center by using Skype to communicate at night to the people there.”
Papers published by the collective group will list both the Health Science Center and the Chinese institute affiliations. Currently one exchange student from the center is doing diabetes-related research in Dr. Liu’s lab at the Health Science Center. It is likely that Health Science Center students will also get to study in Changsha during their graduate education. “This is about establishing bridges. It’s very clever and very flexible,” Dr. Weiss said. “We are seeing the globalization of science. It says a lot about China’s forward thinking, and San Antonio is in with the big boys on this.”
New funding opportunities
Dr. Frazer said: “Feng has the opportunity in China to take leaps and do riskier, less-obvious science that can generate data to apply for grants here. This is important because the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is not funding about 90 percent of grant proposals.”
China has a competitive grant system, but given the excellent quality of the science Dr. Liu conducts, “he has a leg up” in attracting Chinese funds, Dr. Frazer said.
“Our Health Science Center may retain stars by allowing them to do global science,” Dr. Weiss said. “Opportunities are great in China right now.”
China’s investment is analogous to The University of Texas System Board of Regents providing STARS funding to attract top-notch scientists to UT institutions, Dr. Frazer said.
United for Medical Research, an initiative of 20 scientific research institutions and industries, and health and patient advocates, in May announced a report on declining NIH investment. “If present trends continue, China’s financial commitment to biomedical research will be twice that of the United States’ in the next five years (and four times greater as a share of gross domestic product),” the organization’s website states.
San Antonio’s collaborations with China are increasing. In 2010 a city delegation traveled to Shanghai to explore bioscience connections. Delegation member Xiao-Dong Chen, Ph.D., of the Health Science Center Dental School discussed stem cell research with Chinese colleagues. Earlier this year, two of the scientists visited San Antonio for a regenerative medicine symposium co-sponsored by BioMed SA, the city entity that promotes growth in health care and the biosciences.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.
HOME [HSC NEWS]
| About UTHSCSA
| News Releases | Mission
Magazine | Grand Rounds Newly
Granted | Submit News | HSC
News Archive | Video Index