Nature is reporting that the Chinese government is giving serious attention to conducting its own version of the U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative. Details are thin, and second-hand, at least until any formal announcements from the government, which are anticipated in March.
What I think is valuable to consider from the Nature piece are the differences expected between the two programs. Funding levels are expected to be larger for the Chinese program, and the million person cohort planned in the U.S. program will be done by a single institute in China. So the ambition is there.
The Nature article notes that one possible challenge is the lack of enough medical personnel to effectively implement some of the planned projects. Between a high demand for patient visits and a relative lack of specialization, it’s possible there might not be enough people to do the work in the way it needs to be done.
It raises a larger question about China’s research enterprise in general. While its numbers are often cited in this country to try and stoke competitive fires, the quality of that research output may make such comparisons problematic. That is, can a random selection of 100 Chinese researchers be as effective in their work as a selection of 100 American researchers. I don’t know, but the challenges the Chinese system faces with fraud, combined with a lack of sufficient specialists, may mean that its investment in a precision medicine initiative may not go as far as they (or we) think.