NICM Newsletter 16

February 2014 

From the Director 

Alan Bensoussan

With your input and advice, NICM will be seeking this year to strengthen and focus the national agenda for complementary medicine research. Working with the Australian Self Medication Industry and Complementary Medicines Australia, potentially with the assistance of the Research Translation Faculty of the National Health & Medical Research Council, we will be championing the sector's call for regulatory reform to encourage greater investment in CM research and strengthen evidence-based practice. We welcome the NHMRC's re-statement this month, of its commitment to establishing the efficacy of complementary medicines and therapies, and will continue to provide input to these efforts.

In advancing the UWS international agenda as well as responding to approaches from Austrade and industry partners, I will be spending periods of time in China developing our Australia-China TCM research platform. And with the generous financial support provided by the Jacka Foundation and our industry sponsors SFI Flordis, Catalent and Blackmores, we will be advancing the Institute's communications strategy with a view to amplifying our sectoral voice for research into the efficacy and benefits of CM. International quality assurance models will also be explored, again responding to high levels of interest from industry.

If you would like to provide input on any of these fronts, please contact us. A combined and coordinated effort is even more important when public policy is in flux and a new Government is implementing its agenda. The National Institute was founded to enable and expand research capacity and influence, and the broader the base, the more we can achieve.

We welcome Professor Barney Glover as the new Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Western Sydney and thank him for taking the time to visit our TGA approved laboratories and meet with our team in January. We look forward to a strong working relationship with him and his executive team.

Alan and Barney

In other news I am thrilled to announce that Professor John Funder will be returning as Chair of our Advisory Board. John is a great friend of the Institute, and his role will be to help guide the objectives, strategic direction of NICM through this pivotal leadership role. For over 40 years he has made an invaluable contribution to research and consulted widely within the academic, philanthropic, corporate and government sectors. We thank him for his continued support of our work.
Professor Alan Bensoussan - NICM Director

NICM Activities

NICM makes MOST list

Our strengths in traditional Chinese medicine research continue to be recognised in China. The Australia-China Joint Research and Development Centre for Chinese Medicine between Xiyuan Hospital and NICM has been designated as one of 38 Chinese National Level International Research Centres (across all industries). These Centres are selected through a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation process based on the recommendations of the provincial and municipal governments in China. This program is part of "MOST" (China's science and technology peak agency) strategies to implement China's 12th Five Year Plan aiming to promote international cooperation in science and technology.

Audit of CM Research in Australia

NICM has just launched a survey into the status of complementary medicine research in Australia. This is an important update of a small scale 2008 survey, intended to gain a snapshot of complementary medicine research activity at the time. The report from this previous survey can be found at Now in 2014, we believe these data need to be updated, and this time we will be casting the net more broadly and encouraging wider participation in the study. We seek to gain a deeper understanding of who is doing what types of research around the country, with what resources, and whether and how the complementary medicine research sector is changing. Currently there is no such comprehensive data set available for Australia.

This survey will be conducted in an online format and is currently being distributed by email to researchers publishing in the area, as well as through organisations involved with complementary medicine research. We value your input and invite you to participate in this survey, so if you have not already been contacted, please take a few moments to complete the survey available at the following link National Audit of Research Activity in Complementary Medicine (or This survey will close on the 15th March 2014. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

By gaining an understanding of the breadth and depth of Australian complementary medicine research, we hope to increase its profile as well as enhance opportunities for research collaboration. We encourage you to take the time to complete the survey and ask you to invite other associates to whom you think this might also apply.

International visitors

On 19 December NICM hosted a delegation from Jiangxi Province, China.


Led by Ms. Guo Xueqin, Director-General, Department of Science & Technology, the high level Delegation was keen to learn more about Australia's research capacity and regulatory systems and the potential for working together in areas of mutual interest. While Traditional Chinese Medicine and its applicability to improving health outcomes was a key concern for the Delegation, complementary medicines more generally and the potential for Australia's own traditional 'bush' medicines to provide health solutions was also of interest. The province has significant research infrastructure and encourages interest from Australians keen to work in China.

Late last year we were also pleased to welcome Professor Lixing Lao to the Institute. Professor Lao recently took up the role of Professor and Director of the School of Chinese Medicine, the University of Hong Kong. He is also the Secretary General of the Consortium for Globalisation of Chinese Medicine (CGCM) and was formerly the Professor Family Medicine and Director of Traditional Chinese Medicine Research Program in the Centre for Integrative Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Maryland Baltimore. During his visit Professors Lao and Bensoussan signed a UWS – University of Hong Kong collaboration agreement as a foundation for the development of joint research projects, education offerings, exchange of research and teaching personnel and students, and joint publication activities in the area of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Mr. Zhou Xiaobai, Vice-Director General of the Beijing Scientific and Technical Cooperation Center, his staff and colleagues from the Beijing Municipal Council, the Beijing Drug Administration and the Beijing Pharma and Biotech Center visited us in early December to discuss potential areas of collaboration in drug innovation, high-end talent introduction and technology transfer. Several areas for collaboration will be advanced this year.

Congratulations Professor Caroline Smith

It is not easy to achieve Professorial status. The advance of one of our research leaders to Professor is a great cause for celebration, and is another important indicator that our research continues to be strong. Caroline has been with the NICM/CompleMED team since 2008 pursuing evidence based research into acupuncture, complementary therapies, and the integration of Chinese medicine and biomedical research protocols, predominantly in the area of women's health.

Throughout her career, Caroline has published 70 peer reviewed articles in peer reviewed medical and complementary medicine journals providing new and valuable insights into the health benefits of complementary medicine for Australians and internationally. She also makes a substantial contribution to NICM and to building Australia's CM research capacity through her leadership of our postgraduate research program.

Please join with us in congratulating Caroline at this significant point in her substantial career.

NICM Clinical Trials head for the Cloud  

Head of NICM's Clinical Development, Dr Anthony Good has recently overseen the migration of NICM's clinical trial data to the Cloud. Our clinical trials data are now held and managed in a hosted environment that is built and managed consistent with ISO9001 as well as being FDA Part 11 and GCP ICH 6 compliant.

Migration to the Cloud reflects the commitment of UWS and NICM to state of the art in clinical trial initiation, management and analysis. Contact Anthony [] if you would like to learn more about how we have achieved this milestone and why we have migrated to the Cloud.

NICM is developing substantial capacity in this area, with our systems platforms [Evado; Epigeum]; standard operating procedures, protocol development capabilities and commitment to Good Clinical Practice providing an excellent platform for delivering our goal of building the CM evidence base. NICM is one of only a very few research sites in the world conducting end-to-end complementary medicine research and development.

Higher Degree Research at NICM

NICM is involved in an expanding program of postgraduate studies offered by supervised research, and our students create a vibrant core of activity in the centre. Our research candidates are currently involved in a broad range of topics from acupuncture, phytochemistry and pharmacology through to women's health and yoga.

For more information on how to become involved in this growing program please visit:
Current HDR Research Projects, 2014 HDR Research Opportunities

NICM Staff Update 

We are pleased to introduce Dr Joanne Packer to the team, as Postdoctoral Research Fellow working on a range of NICM projects, from sector surveys to the scoping and establishment of new projects. Jo's role provides support across all research programs, and she works with our senior academics in the development of high quality research funding submissions. Jo also assists in the development and implementation of research projects, publications and support for postgraduate student research training while advancing her own research interest in bush medicines and medicinal plants. Jo comes to us from Macquarie University's Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences and can contact Jo at

We also congratulate our Associate Professor Lesley Braun on the significant new opportunity she is taking up as Director of the Blackmores Institute. In her short time with us Lesley has made significant contributions to NICM, in particular helping to develop our future strategies in media and communications. She has strengthened our collaborations with ASMI and CHC through strategy sessions and refreshed our memoranda of understanding with both. She was also instrumental in defining a new scientific advisory service for NICM through negotiating our role in the upcoming Blackmores Institute Symposium. We are pleased that Lesley will be continuing to work with us as Adjunct Associate Professor with a particular focus on integrative medicine over the coming years.

Sites of Interest

The following sites demonstrate the power of the infographic in delivering scientific messages with a focus on complementary medicine therapies. Please note that NICM has not reviewed the evidence base presented on these sites.

Infographic: The who, what, where, when, and why of supplement consumers

Dietary supplement users have different habits and reasons for supplementing their diets, but what does the who, what, where, when, and why of supplement consumers look like? (opens in a new window)

Scientific evidence for popular health supplements

Infographic showing tangible human health benefits when taken orally by an adult with a healthy diet (opens in a new window)

Upcoming Conferences

Australia China Life Science Summit
China is the life science leader of the future
18-19 Feb 2014 Amora Hotel Sydney