A COMPANY aiming to develop natural medicines from plants has signed a 1.6m deal with a company in Singapore.

Oxford Natural Products, based in St Giles, Oxford, and Eu Yan Sang International Holdings Pte will pool their resources to formulate new plant-based medicines and "nutraceuticals" food supplements with medical benefits.

Eu Yan Sang has invested 1.6m in the Oxford company's Singapore subsidiary in return for using its quality system, Total Quality Profiling, which provides a chemical analysis of the ingredients of plant-based medicines.

Eu Yan Sang manufactures ethical drugs in Hong Kong but its core business is traditional Chinese medicine, which uses herbs to treat illness and maintain health.

Established 121 years ago, the company is one of the largest manufacturers and retailers of Traditional Chinese Medicine outside China, selling in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Its products are also freely available in Chinatowns in North America and Europe.

Richard Eu, managing director of Eu Yan Sang, said: "We now plan to use the TQP technology to significantly increase our share of the fast expanding alternative medicine market."

Medical regulatory authorities in Europe and the US have raised concerns that different batches of herbal medicines have variable amounts of active ingredients, making it difficult to prove in scientific trials whether they work.

The Oxford company says that its technology, TQP, is unique in that it can differentiate not just mixtures, but complex mixtures of mixtures.

ONP's chief executive, Christian Hoyer Millar, said: "This is a significant step forward for ONP's strategic plan, which is to establish global presence for its business and technology.

"Old is joining up with new, West with East to develop a new generation of medicines".