The CHNUK project

Find out about this project into integrated platforms in response to antibacterial resistance.


China uses around half of the antibiotics consumed worldwide. The O’Neill Review in 2016 estimated that growing antimicrobial resistance could lead to 1 million premature deaths per year in the country by 2050. These concerns – shared with the UK – are creating increasing demand for new and effective antimicrobials.

China has traditionally been a major producer of generic antibiotics rather than a developer of new ones, but times are changing with new government policies that are starting to help drive innovation in drug discovery. For years, Traditional Chinese Medicines have used natural products that are known to combat bacterial activities. It is apparent that the antimicrobials that work most effectively, when used alone and in conjunction with other therapies, are those which hit multiple targets. Traditional Chinese Medicines are by their nature combinatorial in their activities and present a golden opportunity for China to take a strategic lead in the development of new effective therapeutics to combat AMR in China.

A new multidisciplinary, collaborative project ‘Integrated platforms from science to policy in response to antibacterial resistance’ (CHNUK) seeks to bring together world-class science and policy groups from the UK and China, to form a hub of support platforms for fundamental and translational AMR discovery research. Using UK strengths in underpinning biology and science policy, the project aims to maximise China's rich history and resources in natural products and Traditional Chinese Medicines.

The project brings together six institutions from the UK and 5 from China. The project involves three members of University of Sussex faculty: Dr Michael Hopkins (SPRU), Dr Adrian Ely (SPRU) & Dr Phoebe Li (School of Law, Politics and Sociology). It will be led by Prof Christopher Dowson (University of Warwick).


The project will:

  • develop new scientific methods and associated software platforms to discover new natural products, tapping into the validated compound diversity inherent within traditional Chinese medicine to deliver a series of AMR targets highly enabled for use in antibiotics.
  • map capabilities and develop policy positions to influence funding and practice that will strengthen the pipeline of AMR-targeted Research & Development (R&D) in China and the UK.
  • enable substantive exchange programs to train and inform, across a range of disciplines, the next generation of AMR researchers.

Six integrated technology, policy, and training platforms will be carried out to provide the framework and foundation for the project and act as the basis for China - UK exchange and interaction.

The platforms are:

  1. Target validation and mechanisms – Exploration of essential processes, virulence (harmfulness) and resistance mechanisms of relevant Traditional Chinese Medicines targets.
  2. Assays and screening – Evaluation and screening of key Traditional Chinese Medicines targets.
  3. Development and testing – Chemical, bacteriological, toxicity and in vivo testing to deliver lead compounds aimed towards commercial development.
  4. Policy – Organisation of high-level workshops with scientists, policy-makers and regulators to discuss the research findings and explore policy options. Also the mapping of key stakeholders, policy and existing regulations. This will deliver background data on R&D on antimicrobials in China.
  5. Industry translation – Delivery of findings via a network of industrial partners.
  6. Training and exchange – The delivery of bespoke practical and theory training packages to enhance the delivery of all platforms and instil a new multidisciplinary ethos in students and researchers at all levels to encourage a borderless response to AMR.

Impact and outreach

This hub aims to link major national research infrastructure to build high-tech innovations that will advance antibiotic discovery using natural products.

The hub will enable drug discovery and drug production, and the knowledge exchange and skill sharing will extend key competencies and capabilities of academia in China, to support the China Traditional Chinese Medicines and pharmaceutical sectors.

In the longer-term the advances in knowledge developed by the partnership will help underpin broader discovery of effective antibiotics in China that will be used to tackle the real and present threat to health in China that currently, disproportionately, afflicts the most vulnerable people in Chinese society.


  • University of Warwick
  • University of Oxford
  • Diamond Light Source
  • University of Sheffield
  • Institute of Development Studies
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Xiamen University
  • Jilin University
  • Peking University Health Science Centre
  • Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics

Further information

The project delivered a number of outputs, alongside an engagement process to support policy change in the UK and further afield: