Amway's Chen Jia helps bring traditional medicine into the future

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Chen Jia, who graduated as a master of science in chemical engineering, never imagined farming could be so much fun.
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Chen Jia, who graduated as a master of science in chemical engineering, never imagined farming could be so much fun, until she took charge of Amway's research and development operations in China in 2002.

"We want to bring in a whole new set of ideas to grow, study, harvest and process traditional Chinese herbal medicines in an organic way," said Chen Jia, vice president of the Amway Botanical Research Center and of Amway’s China R&D and technical regulatory affairs activities.

Although the initial days of preparation for the Wuxi based Amway Botanical Research Center has met setbacks and difficulties — mainly because local farmers had little understanding about taking organic and sustainable measures to improve the soil and water environment as opposed to just growing plants or grains that can bring immediate profits — it turned out to be a rewarding experience for Chen Jia.

She insisted modern science should be applied to the growth and study of botanics since the proven effectiveness of Nutrilite products has always been its core competence, and it aims to stick to the core mission of "Best of Nature, Best of Science." After two years of efforts, local farmers and communities gradually began to understand and embrace the scientific and sustainable way of growing plants and herbs.

"Only using this method can the safety and effectiveness of Nutrilite products be ensured," she said.

Amway is introducing Western sustainable farming techniques to grow plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as Goji berry (Chinese wolfberry), evodia and chrysanthemum.

Under her leadership, it has initiated the product development philosophy of "East meets West, Heritage meets Future, Nature meets Science."

"We also want to make the Amway Botanical Research Center an innovative platform for customers and sales representatives to experience our products, as well as the process of our research efforts so they would have a deeper understanding of the origin of our products," she said in an interview with Shanghai Daily.

Last month, Chen Jia was awarded the Women Leadership Innovation Award at the Women Reform Leadership program hosted by Shanghai Daily and guided by the Office of the Shanghai Ethical and Cultural Building Committee and Shanghai Women’s Federation, in honor of her innovative work in herbal medicine research.

She has also been leading her team in drawing up standards for the effective ingredients in traditional Chinese herbals and plants so that their effectiveness and safety can be better assessed by the food and drug quality watchdog.

Amway officially unveiled the US$25 million Amway Botanical Research Center in Wuxi in 2015, and the company has been studying plants associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine at the site for potential future use in its health and beauty products.

The Amway Botanical Research Center is the latest showcase of Amway’s continuous efforts to research and understand Chinese botanicals to a greater extent – using the most advanced technology and scientific practices – and integrate the findings into Nutrilite products.

Last year, it also completed the genome sequencing of chrysanthemum by collaborating with the Institute of Chinese Materia Medica at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences to provide the complete genomic database for chrysanthemum. This will allow external researchers to gain a better understanding of the peculiarity of the flower and how growing methods can be altered to achieve higher quality.

Research staff at the Amway Botanical Research Center has also been actively seeking scientific and sustainable ways to grow cistanche tubulosa in Xinjiang, whose extract has been shown to help improve memory, focus, and recall, but has been difficult to grow due to geographical restrictions.

The Nutrilite Memory Builder contains two key ingredients: cistanche tubulosa and Ginkgo Biloba extracts, and was launched after four years of extensive research.

It's the first Asian herb based Nutrilite product, and by the end of 2016 it had been launched in 12 countries and regions, with combined sales exceeding US$3 billion.

"Helping Chinese herbal medicines gain more recognition in the international market through the Amway Botanical Research Center's international platform and modern technology has always been our aspiration," Chen Jia said.

Chinese herbal medicine will play an increasingly important role in nutritional food and supplements, which also represents the Chinese idea and culture of health and well-being.

"Amway has always been hoping to combine the understanding and experience of fostering plant-based food from other parts of the world and to keep lifting users’ experience, as well as helping them gain a better understanding of their health situation,” she added.

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