Located near the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, the Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ) serves as a center for research on diverse biological resources of southwestern China, the Eastern Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. Since its establishment in 1959, KIZ has grown considerably. As of November 2013, it has more than 483 faculty members and staff spread across 32 scientific research groups. About 330 post-graduate students, including several international students, work and study in KIZ, as do many national and international collaborators.
As one of the twenty biological institutes in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), KIZ was the only CAS life sciences institute in western China included as part of the Renovation 2020 pick over. Over the next decade, KIZ hopes to continue its success by building its research programs around three key goals: developing non-human primate (NHP) models for both major disease and new pharmaceuticals research; accomplishing theoretical breakthroughs regarding evolution of the genome; and developing and cultivating genetic resources of domestic animals and their wild counterpart species. These goals will be greatly enhanced by the upcoming opening of the CAS-Yunnan Government Laboratory of Biodiversity in Southwest China and the Southwest Institutes for Biological Sciences, both of which are currently under construction.
Housed within the institute are the State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution (GRE) and the Key Laboratory of Animal Models and Human Disease Mechanisms (AMHD), which together comprise the bulk of KIZ’s main researchers focused on the institute’s core research fields: Evolutionary Genetics and Reproduction; Utilization, Development, and Conservation of Diversified Animal Genetic Resources; Genetic Resources of Domestic Animals; Animal Models, Human Disease Mechanisms and New pharmaceuticals Development; and Research on & Applications of Stem Cells. Building their efforts around these cutting-edge topics, PIs at the institute have greatly benefited from recent talent attracting programs, which includes 10 awardees for the National Outstanding Youth Science Fund, one for the Thousand Talents Program (type B), three for the Youth Thousand Talents Program, 17 under the 100-Talents Program, and a further 10 belonging to the High-Level Overseas Talents of Yunnan Province.
As of November 2013, KIZ boasts 398 projects funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Yunnan Province, and CAS, as well as cooperative institutional and enterprise projects. These projects have yielded numerous impressive results. From 2008 to 2013, researchers published 1647papers, 1114 of which were published in SCI journals including Nature, Science, Nature Biotechnology or the American Journal of Human Genetics. Staff at the institute also applied for 114 patents, with 53 patents being granted. Several new pharmaceuticals are also in development, including the antidepressant Orcinocide (Class 1: phase I clinical trials) and Phenchlobenpyrrone (Class 2: phase II clinical trials), an anti-Alzheimer’s treatment. A recent project on the origin and genetic evolution of newly evolved genes was also awarded the State Natural Science Award of China (second class).
The successes of these projects has helped KIZ build strong international scientific collaborations, exchanges, and student training programs with partners in North/South America, Africa, Europe, Australia and throughout Asia. KIZ is also engaged in international scholar exchange and training programs, with two awardees supported by “Fellowship for Postdoctoral from Developing Countries,” six by the “CAS-TWAS fellowship,” as well as five visiting professors supported by “CAS Visiting Professorships for Senior International Scientists” program to implement greater cooperative research efforts at KIZ.
In addition to both the human resources and excellent location, KIZ also offers several outstanding research platforms and resources:
-- Kunming Primate Research Center, housing more than 2400 non-human primates (NHP) and 3000 tree shrews. The center has been evaluated and fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC);
-- Office of Technology Transfer, providing scientific research services to the public by way of its State Biological Industrialization Base-Experimental Animal Center, as well as Center for Drug Safety Evaluation;
-- Biological Safety Level 3 Laboratory, allowing modeling both viral and microbial infections in NHP;
-- Southern China DNA Barcoding Center, connecting Chinese DNA barcoding efforts with the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) initiative;
-- Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology/Zoological Specimens Bank, containing 650,000+ animal specimens in its collections;
-- Kunming Cell Bank of Type Culture Collection, maintaining 1585 cell lines of 315 animal species and subspecies;
-- Kunming Biodiversity Regional Center for Large Scale Facilities, featuring 99 cutting-edge systems, including Next Generation Sequencing Platforms (e.g., HiSeq 2500 Sequencing System, PacBio RS Single-Molecule Real-Time Sequencing System) and state-of-the-art equipment including Flow Cytometer, Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope, and High Performance Computing Linux-Cluster.