Merck Focuses on Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer Drugs

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Merck recently announced that it will collaborate with Hong Kong-based Chi-Med, a pharmaceutical firm that focuses on researching, developing, manufacturing and selling pharmaceuticals, health supplements and other consumer health and personal care products derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine and botanical ingredients, to develop new cancer drugs.

Chinese herbal medicines have been used for centuries. Merck’s partnership with Chi-Med was likely made with the intention of identifying the active ingredients in those medicines.

Western pharmaceutical companies are increasingly outsourcing parts of drug discovery work due to the time and money – typically 7-10 years at a price of $800 million or more – required to find molecules to treat disease.

The question is, when Merck patents the active ingredients in Chinese herbs, will it affect low cost, natural health practices? Hopefully, the answer will be no, since it’s speculated that any molecules identified will be modified and sold as Western drugs, not Chinese medicine.

About the Author

Walter Jessen, Ph.D. is a Data Scientist, Digital Biologist, and Knowledge Engineer. His primary focus is to build and support expert systems, including AI (artificial intelligence) and user-generated platforms, and to identify and develop methods to capture, organize, integrate, and make accessible company knowledge. His research interests include disease biology modeling and biomarker identification. He is also a Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH, and lead writer at Highlight HEALTH.