US-China Collaborative Biomedical Research Program

Organization and History

In December 2010, the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) signed an implementation arrangement to develop the U.S.-China Program for Biomedical Research Cooperation, which aims to enhance cooperative biomedical research of benefit to both countries.

A Joint Working Group (JWG) made up of NIH and NSFC representatives developed strategic research plans and helped expedite review and clearance of proposed bilateral projects. Both the NIH and NSFC allocated funds to support joint activities under this program. These joint activities provided unique opportunities for U.S. and Chinese scientists to study diseases in multiple sites, access complementary expertise and share research materials and data to enrich research findings that benefit global public health and medical practice.

Areas of Joint Research

In the first round of the program, applications were open for basic, translational, behavioral, clinical, preventive, or epidemiological research projects in the areas of allergy, immunology, infectious diseases, and cancer. The JWG recommended to co-fund 34 grant supplements and intramural collaborative research projects involving U.S. and Chinese investigators.

In the second round of the program, investigators were invited to submit research projects that covered various areas of cancer, mental health, immunology, and infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS and its co-morbidities). The JWG recommended to co-fund 42 awards to U.S. and Chinese collaborating investigators.

The research areas were expanded in the third and fourth round of the program to include Parkinson’s disease and stroke, as well as continuing research on the health topics covered in the first two rounds. The JWG recommended to co-fund 33 awards in the third round and 23 awards in the fourth round to U.S. and Chinese collaborating investigators. 

In another round of the program focused on non-communicable diseases, collaborative research areas were expanded to include eye and visual systems and environmental health sciences.  The JWG recommended to co-fund 13 awards to U.S. and Chinese collaborating investigators.

In all rounds of the program, the NIH provided funding to support the U.S. investigators and the NSFC provided complementary funding to support the Chinese investigators.

Program evaluations were conducted in 2015 and 2019. The survey results found the bilateral program stimulated collaboration in biomedical research between Chinese and U.S. scientists, promoted capacity building for grantee institutions and demonstrated positive impact on grantees’ career development. At the time of the 2019 evaluation, it was reported that over 80 scientific publications had been published in high-impact journals, more than 380 training events had occurred, and numerous meeting presentations were delivered to advance all the fields covered by the program. 

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