Functional genomics approach to TCM

Under the 7th Framework Programme, another EU project, called “GP-TCM”, is working on CAM related issues. The project is aiming to inform the best practice and harmonise research on the safety and efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) through interdisciplinary exchange of experience and expertise among clinicians and scientists.
The core of the project is focused on the use of functional genomics methodology in research on the safety, efficacy and mechanisms of Chinese Herbal Medicine and acupuncture, and the participants count experts from 23 countries, including 15 EU member states, Australia, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Congo, Norway, Thailand and the USA.

- 'GP-TCM is happy to collaborate with CAMbrella in identifying the state of the art, finding problems and solutions, proposing future research priorities, as well as disseminating good practice in these important areas,' says Dr. Qihe Xu, Coordinator of GP-TCM. Qihe Xu is Senior Lecturer in Renal Medicine at King's College London.

- 'TCM is widely used in the European Union and attracts intense research interest from European scientists.'

- 'Functional genomics is an approach combining “omics” (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics) and functional analysis. We reckon that such an approach will allow high-content observations of whole profiles of molecules at different levels, thus enabling us to interpret and validate the scientific value of TCM in a holistic and function-oriented manner.'

Human body as a functional system

- 'TCM treats a patient as a “functional system”, aiming to identify imbalances in functions and restore this balance at the whole organism level. This holistic approach results in a primitive holistic medicine, seeing the forest (the whole body as a functional system) but not the trees (the details in the body).'

- 'We hope that, based on the knowledge that we acquire from TCM, we can investigate into the detailed molecular changes at the “omics” levels, draw them all together using sophisticated computer tools, to achieve a holistic view at a much higher level, ultimately allowing us to see both the trees and the forest regarding human health and disease,' says Qihe Xu.

- 'Through a collaboration among 6 institutions based in the UK and China, we identified a number of herbal entities with reproducible anti-scarring or pro-scarring activities. This convinced us that TCM is a rich resource for further drug development and an area that is important for the wellbeing of EU citizens, prompting us to work with more interested parties to address the safety, efficacy and mechanisms of action of TCM in a broader consortium, i.e, GP-TCM.'

Good co-operation

The co-operation in the consortium is based on fairly focused common interests, and it is not hard to bring them together to collaborate. Also, the management team gives priority to interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international collaborations, creating opportunities and new platforms for members to work together.

- 'We run many face-to-face meetings, members-only web pages and monthly teleconferences to facilitate “crosstalk” and “sharing”, leading to mutual recognition and consensus among members, as well as collaborations in grant applications and existing laboratory research,' Qihe Xu says.

The full name of GP-TCM is “Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-genomic Era”. The project officially started in May 2009 and by the time of its conclusion in April 2012 a Europe-based academic society or interest group dedicated to TCM research will be founded to carry on the mission of GP-TCM.

For further information please visit the project website: or alternatively contact the GP-TCM coordinator at

Text: Qihe Xu and Jesper Odde Madsen