China: A PATH partner grows into a leading player in international health

May 10, 2017 by Laura Anderson

Tag along on a journey to explore the complex and enduring connections between PATH, China, our world, and to see how 40 years of partnerships and friendships have improved access to good health in China--and beyond.

PATH Journeys travelers in China dressed in lab coats and hairnets standing in a semicircle smiling at the camera.

“Each of these little vials—every single one—can protect a child,” says PATH board member Dr. Yehong Zhang, leaning over a humming conveyor belt as hundreds of vials of Japanese encephalitis vaccine whisk by. “It’s moving, really. This is why we do this work.”

I’m standing with Dr. Zhang at the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products (CDIBP) in southwestern China. It’s spring in Chengdu, and the city is enjoying the warm, humid weather it’s known for. But inside the factory the air is cool. We’re here—dressed in blue hairnets, shoe-covers, and lab coats—to tour the campus and talk with CDIBP experts about the decade of partnership, science, and global-health expertise that allowed PATH and the institute to bring this powerful vaccine to families in China and neighboring countries.

This year, PATH celebrates 40 years at the forefront of global healtha rise that began, years ago, with our first projects in China. The CDIBP visit is just one stop on an exhilarating, weeklong trip with PATH’s unique Journeys program, which brings select groups of supporters, friends, and PATH executives to the forefront of our projects worldwide—including our roots in China.

(Left to right) PATH editor and Journeys traveler Laura Anderson with PATH China staff members.

(Left to right) Laura Anderson with PATH China staff members Miaomiao Sun, Haiyan Dong, and Junchen Li. Photo: PATH.

For five days, we visited the modern factories, historic sites, quiet gardens, and overflowing cities that make China so unique. Along the way, we saw what it takes to develop a breakthrough vaccine, discussed how barriers in distribution can affect the promise of a lifesaving technology, and explored the biggest threats and opportunities in global health today. Together, we looked into China’s past, present, and future: from the lessons of the Cultural Revolution to the global impact of the nation’s growing middle class.

Today, PATH’s manufacturing partnerships and technical assistance in China are having a remarkable health impact, both inside China and beyond its borders. This trip was a deep and surprisingly all-access window into a country that has remained a trusted PATH partner while growing into a leading player in global health.

Here are some highlights from our eye-opening tour of PATH’s work and partnerships in China.

PATH Journeys travelers in China dressed in lab coats and hairnets standing in a semicircle smiling at the camera.

At Beijing Bio-Institute Biological Products (BBIBP), millions of vials of vaccines are prepared for shipment. Our partnership helps vaccines reach families in China and beyond. Photo: PATH.

Kathy Cahill talks with a lab attendant during the China Journeys trip.

Technical support from PATH is helping BBIBP, the oldest vaccine development institute in China, bring a bivalent oral polio vaccine through World Health Organization prequalification. Here, PATH VP Cathy Cahill talks with a BBIBP colleague. Photo: PATH.

Steve Davis walks down a hallway with several people at the Daxing District Immunization Center.

Steve Davis, PATH president and CEO, visits the Daxing District Immunization Center, which provides routine immunizations to an estimated 200,000 children every year. Steve first came to China to study nearly 40 years ago. Photo: PATH.

PATH Journeys travelers in China mingle on an outside patio at a PATH 40th anniversary celebration.

At a special 40th anniversary dinner, travelers mingled with university, government, and business leaders in China, who talked about the priorities and challenges driving the country’s ambitious health and development agenda. Photo: PATH.

A table displaying a variety of Laerdal Global Health products and publications.

At Laerdal Global Health’s Suzhou factory, engineers explained how they produce the deceptively simple-looking Nifty Feeding Cup, based on a design by PATH and our partners from Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington. Photo: PATH.

Boxes of medication shown through a refrigerator window.

The yellow boxes being scanned and stacked for shipment at the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products, in southwestern China, represent the hard work, science, and incredible know-how that goes vaccine development. Photo: PATH.

David Kaslow speaks and gestures while Steve Davis, who is sitting next to him, looks on smiling.

David Kaslow, PATH vice president of Essential Medicines (and an international expert in vaccine research and development), gives a primer on the science, potential, and challenges of immunization and vaccine development. Photo: PATH.

Children seated together on steps outside a building in the Forbidden City.

Children complete an art lesson at the Forbidden City, a former imperial palace in Beijing that now houses the Palace Museum. Photo: PATH/Laura Anderson.

If there's one thing I learned during my week in China with PATH, it's this: the work of international public health—helping families thrive—ignites the passion of some of the smartest, most passionate people on earth. And many of them choose to work for and with PATH.