MTSU president helps open international ethnopharmacology conference in China

Middle Tennessee State University’s research of traditional Chinese herbal remedies in modern medicine took center stage Monday, May 16, at an international conference in China.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee was one of the keynote speakers at the opening session of the three-day 16th International Congress on Ethnopharmacology in Yulin, which attracted more than 300 academicians from 35 countries.
MTSU faculty members Elliot Altman and Iris Gao, who run the university’s Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research, will make presentations to the conference Tuesday and Wednesday, May 17 and 18.
“In the United States, many of our citizens are still trying to figure out the importance and the significance and the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine,” McPhee said.
“Part of our research, the exposure, will help get our people in the West to understand and appreciate the outcomes.”
You can watch excerpts from McPhee’s presentation at
About 800 of the 7,400-plus plants at the garden show potential in treating a variety of diseases. Researchers at the garden have been preparing extracts from these plants, yielding a library of up to 400,000 compounds that MTSU researchers can explore.
Applying traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases is an ancient and respected tradition widely accepted in the Far East that is increasing in awareness in Western cultures.
McPhee, citing MTSU’s partnership with the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants, said his university is “equal partners” in the study of samples from the world’s largest site of traditional Chinese herbal remedies.
“We want to promote the exchange of scholars and students,” he said. “We have had a number of faculty members from various Chinese universities come and spend a year studying in our labs and working with MTSU researchers.”
In 2011, the Guinness Book of World Records named the garden, located in Nanning in southern China, as the world’s largest medicinal herb garden.
The partnership between MTSU and the Guangxi Botanical Garden, which began in 2011 and was extended in 2014, plays to the strengths of both institutions. Garden researchers cultivate and prepare extracts. MTSU scientists, led by Altman and Gao, then screen the samples to determine their medicinal promise.
“This will continue to be a major strategic emphasis for MTSU,” McPhee told the conference. “And I know that my colleagues in Guangxi and Beijing will continue to work with me … to advance this incredible work.”
Prior to the conference, Guangxi Botanical Garden director Miao Jianhua asked McPhee, Altman and Andrew Oppmann, MTSU vice president for marketing and communications, to plant a tree in front of the facility’s new entrance plaza to commemorating the partnership with the university. The MTSU trio also toured the garden’s research laboratories.