Xiehe uses space breeding to develop new drugs
CHEN JUYU, chairman of Shenyang Xiehe Group in Liao- ning Province, plans to develop a series of anti-cancer and anti-AIDS drugs as well as health products at the pharmaceutical company’s new research center in Shenzhen.
The company will use four bacterial super-antigen (SAg) samples that had been carried into space by the Shenzhen VII last month.
Jointly recommended by Zhang Zhongze, an expert in microbiology in Liaoning and six other academics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the four bacterial super-antigen samples were selected for the Shenzhen VII mission.
After the mission, the four samples were sent to the China General Microbiological Culture Collection Center in Beijing and then returned to Shenyang on Oct. 3.
“The main purpose of the space flight was to make best use of space breeding technology and carry out experiments aimed at discovering what happened to the bacterial super-antigen samples after they were exposed to cosmic radiation and zero gravity,” Zhang said Monday.
“Space breeding refers to the technology of sending seeds into space in a recoverable spacecraft,” said Zhang. “In the high-vacuum, micro-gravity, micro-magnitude and strong-radiation space environment, the bacterial super-antigens may undergo mutation.”
Russian and U.S. space agencies have been sending seeds into space since the early 1960s in the hope of growing new plants free from the impact of disease, drought and gravity.
Since 1987, China has carried out seed breeding tests on satellites and a number of new species of plant seeds have been bred in space by Chinese scientists.
“After learning that Northeast General Pharmaceutical Factory in Shenyang, one of China’s largest producers of Vitamin C, had successfully sent antibiotic samples into space on Shenzhou VI in 2005, we decided to conduct similar experiments,” Chen said Monday.
According to Chen, his research team in Shenyang had started conducting research on the returned bacterial super-antigen samples to select and cultivate improved varieties for pharmaceutical use.
Chen established Shenyang Xiehe H-Tech Development Co. in 1988, specializing in the research and development of new anti-cancer drugs and health products.
After more than 10 years of hard work, the firm developed the Highly Agglutinative Staphylococcin (HAS), the first commercial super-antigen-based anti-cancer drug in China.
HAS was granted a National Invention Patent in 1993 and was approved for commercial production by the State Food & Drug Administration in 1999.
Since 1996, Chen and his company have also been involved in developing anti-AIDS drugs. In 2003, the first biological anti-AIDS agent with independent intellectual property rights was developed by Chen’s company and approved for production in South Africa.
Today, the company owns a total of 17 domestic and overseas patents in the field of super-antigens as well as more than 10 biological pharmaceutical and health products for treating cancer, AIDS, leukemia, hepatitis B and skin injuries.
In March this year, Chen established Xielian Gene Engineering Co. in the Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Park in Nanshan District, planning to develop it into the group’s new headquarters.
Chen is also preparing his company for initial public offerings in Hong Kong and the Untied States in two or three years.