China's military medical academy announced on Friday that it would licence a British company to use the patent of its new anti-dementia drug based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), opening up a new avenue to the international market for TCM products.
After ten years of efforts, a group led by Ma Baiping of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS) of the People's Liberation Army has finished pre-clinical research for its new anti-dementia drug, dubbed NJS, which is derived from TCM substances.
Under the deal, the academy will sell the patent licence to U.K.-based Phytopharm plc, disclose key NJS technologies, and rely on the pharmaceutical firm to do clinical trials and promote the product in the international market.
"This is the first time China has sold a TCM patent licence to a foreign firm and it represents a major stride toward international credibility," said AMMS President Sun Jianzhong.
The deal gives TCM a better chance of penetrating the international market, he added.
Phytopharm chief executive officer Dr. Daryl Rees said that western countries have some negative perceptions of TCM. Many TCM drugs contain ingredients that can not be identified by western pharmaceutical standards, making them still very hard to get market entry approval as new herbal drugs.
They have a very different concept on TCM products' being safe, effective and controllable, Ma said.
"Foreign firms can adopt a global approach in clinic research of NJS as well as its market strategy, helping find a new way for TCM to enter the international market," said Ma.
Linking up with an overseas company that can carry out clinical research and market promotion will help boost the credibility of TCM in the international market, Rees said.
Pre-clinical results were very "exciting", he said, and he had an optimistic forecast for the new medicine.
When it began laboratory research, the AMMS patented NJS both in China and in its potential markets such as Europe, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States.
"China's TCM manufacturers are now more aware of patent protection," Sun said.
Both sides declined to disclose the value of the deal.
Dementia is a condition characterized by a progressive decline of mental abilities -- including loss of memory -- accompanied by changes in personality and behavior. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.
With ageing populations swelling worldwide, the potential for a holistic new dementia treatment is enormous.