In a 6,000-square-meter research and development laboratory outside the North Fifth Ring Road in Beijing, Chen Shuo and his team are working on a project to develop a drug to treat tuberculosis, a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs.
Chen, the project's principal instigator, who is from Sichuan province and went to Shandong University in Jinan, was among the first group of researchers to work at the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute in July 2017.
He obtained his doctorate in School of Medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University, United States, in 2000. Since then, he has worked for many research institutes, universities and pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., and also has his own laboratory and sponsors.
Sensing some negative trends in the antibiotics industry in the U.S., Chen left the country where he had lived for 22 years to join the GHDDI team to continue his research.
"There wasn't enough scope and funding in the U.S. for me to make more significant progress in my field," he said.
"But this place (the institute) is very lively and innovative, and I can work on the topic I'm good at," said Chen, who focuses on microorganisms and antibiotics.
He led the institute's first project, successfully identifying a new drug target.
Chen, one of dozens of researchers recruited by the institute from around the world, said his team expects to see its work result in an actual product soon.
The institute has about 60 R&D team members, half of whom have overseas experience and 40 have doctorates.
Lu Manchun, its chief operating officer, said there is a preference for hiring senior researchers from large pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, based in the U.S., and Novartis, headquartered in Switzerland. It also works with well-known research institutes, including The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Lu obtained her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and undertook postdoctoral research at Princeton University. She has rich experience of working in related fields.
"We also welcome those who have master's degrees or have just graduated from university, and will provide them with a platform to learn and grow, but this could be challenging for them," she said.
The institute plans to expand its research team to about 130 in the next two years.
"We'd like to invite those with the enthusiasm for science and an interest in the frontier development of healthcare," Lu said.
Chen said he enjoys his work at the "unconventional" institute, which has talented professionals from different areas of the world focused on global health problems.
"Infectious diseases will never disappear, so people like us will always be needed," he said. "Where there is pressure, there is motivation."