Volume 6 (2017) Issue 1 Pages 1-5
China is facing the great challenge of treating the world's largest rare disease population, an estimated 16 million patients with rare diseases. One effort offering promise has been a pilot national project that was launched in 2013 and that focused on 20 representative rare diseases. Another government-supported special research program on rare diseases – the "Rare Diseases Clinical Cohort Study" – was launched in December 2016. According to the plan for this research project, the unified National Rare Diseases Registry System of China will be established as of 2020, and a large-scale cohort study will be conducted from 2016 to 2020. The project plans to develop 109 technical standards, to establish and improve 2 national databases of rare diseases – a multi-center clinical database and a biological sample library, and to conduct studies on more than 50,000 registered cases of 50 different rare diseases. More importantly, this study will be combined with the concept of precision medicine. Chinese population-specific basic information on rare diseases, clinical information, and genomic information will be integrated to create a comprehensive predictive model with a follow-up database system and a model to evaluate prognosis. This will provide the evidence for accurate classification, diagnosis, treatment, and estimation of prognosis for rare diseases in China. Numerous challenges including data standardization, protecting patient privacy, big data processing, and interpretation of genetic information still need to be overcome, but research prospects offer great promise.