May 10, 2017 |

A week in China with PATH

A writer learns how partnerships, friendships, and 40 years of history make global health possible.
Portrait of Laura Anderson.
Portrait of Laura Anderson, PATH editor and Journeys traveler. Photo: Courtesy of Laura Anderson.

“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) PATH editor and Journeys traveler 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.
PATH Journeys travelers and staff got an inside look at how millions of vials of vaccines are prepared for shipment at Beijing Bio-Institute Biological Products (BBIBP). We learned how our joint partnership makes it possible to bring powerful lifesaving vaccines to more families in China and worldwide. Photo: PATH.
Kathy Cahill talks with a lab attendant during the China Journeys trip.
Travelers were welcomed as colleagues during a tour of BBIBP, the oldest vaccine development institute in China. Leaders explained how technical support from PATH is helping BBIBP bring a bivalent oral polio vaccine through World Health Organization prequalification, potentially closing a gap in global supply. Later, the group toured the areas where millions of doses are prepared. In this photo, Kathy Cahill, PATH’s vice president for international development, talks with a BBIBP colleague during the tour. Photo: PATH.
Steve Davis walks down a hallway with several people at the Daxing District Immunization Center.
PATH President and CEO Steve Davis visits the Daxing District Immunization Center, which provides routine immunizations to an estimated 200,000 children every year. “Nearly forty years ago,” he said, “I came to China for the first time myself, and stayed to study. . . . The China outside my window is hardly recognizable from that China I remember.” 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. (Left to right) Journeys traveler Suzie Wyckoff; Veronique Baron-Wunderle, senior director of QIAGEN China (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.; PATH board member Dr. Yehong Zhang (in the background); and travelers Thurston and Catherine Roach.
A table displaying a variety of Laerdal Global Health products and publications.
At Laerdal Global Health’s Suzhou factory, the group sat side by side with engineers who explained what it took to produce the deceptively simple-looking Nifty Feeding Cup. Originally designed by PATH with our partners from Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington, and refined and manufactured by Laerdal, the cup allows babies who can’t breastfeed to easily lap precious ounces of breast milk from a reservoir near its rim. Pictured here are a variety of Laerdal products, including the Nifty Feeding Cup (center foreground). Photo: PATH.
Boxes of medication shown through a refrigerator window.
“We see all these vaccines going into the packaging,” noted traveler Catherine Roach, musing on the yellow boxes being scanned and stacked for shipment at the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products, in southwestern China. “But what we are really seeing being packaged up is all the hard work, the science, and the incredible know-how that went into making this vaccine.” The boxes contain vaccines in cold storage at the Daxing District Immunization Center. Photo: PATH.
David Kaslow speaks and gestures while Steve Davis, who is sitting next to him, looks on smiling.
It’s not every day you have dinner with a global expert in vaccine research and development. PATH Vice President of Essential Medicines David Kaslow (pictured here addressing colleagues during the trip), gave the Journeys group a fascinating 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.
Travelers also experienced the beauty and contrasts of today’s China. Dawn in Tiananmen Square. Industrial high-rises. Colorful arches in the Forbidden City. High-speed trains parked in sleek rows. Suzhou’s Master of Nets Garden, where photos don’t just capture but reveal the feng shui master’s precision. The sweet, masked faces of giant pandas. And more. In this photo, children complete an art lesson at the Forbidden City. Photo: PATH/Laura Anderson.
Thurston Roach, a PATH Journeys traveler, looks back at a fellow traveler.
“This visit ties it all together,” said Journeys traveler Thurston Roach, after a discussion of the Japanese encephalitis vaccine. “It can be hard to explain the sophistication and reach of PATH’s work. But this is it. The tenacity, the decade of partnership, and the achievement of this vaccine to protect children—this is what PATH does.” Photo: PATH.
Journeys group stands in front of a building sign for Beijing Tiantan Biological Products Co., Ltd.
Journeys travelers during a tour of the Beijing Bio-Institute Biological Products (BBIBP). Together, the group explored the complex and enduring connections between PATH, China, our world, and the women and children we serve. Photo: PATH.

All told, the work of global health—helping families thrive—ignites the passion of some of the smartest, most passionate people on earth. PATH’s Journeys travel program takes you right where they work. We’re already planning upcoming trips—including in-depth itineraries to India, South Africa, and Vietnam.

We invite you to travel on one of our future Journeys trips as we visit and explore more PATH’s projects!

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