Outline of the Matching Program for Innovations in Future Drug Discovery and Medical Care
The theme of the 3rd Science and Technology Basic Plan, which started in 2006, is reinforcement of the system for innovation. Calls have gone out for proposals to launch programs for "Centers of Interdisciplinary Innovations in Advanced Technologies" by the Special Coordination Fund for Promoting Science and Technology. The aim of calling for such programs is the formation of new research centers. Under these programs a wide range of advanced interdisciplinary R&D, including fundamental studies useful for future application, can be conducted by industry-university-government collaboration. Initially, the advanced interdisciplinary areas included engineering, medical science and pharmaceutical science, toward creating a comprehensive human-friendly medical system, as well as nano-biotechnology and information technology. In each program, a framework is supposed to be prepared for three purposes: 1) to ensure that the university and companies collaborate equally from the outset of program planning, 2) to form a research center that leads the world in advanced interdisciplinary areas, in order to achieve social and economic results in 10 to 15 years by developing innovative technologies and creating new industries, and 3) to use the program to enhance the international competitiveness of Japan's economy and industries. Research resources and other contributions from the private sector should roughly equal the fund in terms of monetary amount. The research period is ten years, and each project was reviewed in the third year, as the first three years are regarded as the start-up period.
After the details of the above-mentioned call for the program were announced, Hokkaido University established a preparatory committee at the end of 2005 that was largely operated by the Executive Office of Research Strategy. Various projects were proposed by several departments, and these proposals were examined comprehensively. Finally, a program was formulated by integrating a project for innovative drug discovery that had been implemented by the Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Graduate School of Life Science, and Shionogi & Co., Ltd., with a project for molecular imaging and its application that had been implemented by the Graduate School of Medicine and Hitachi, Ltd. Hokkaido University was particularly interested in promoting life science, and it aimed to create a program for innovations in drug discovery and medical care that focused on patient QOL. For this purpose, systemic reform was implemented, and collaborative relations were established among the faculties of physical science, pharmacy and medical science toward developing a framework of education and research related to life science. Hokkaido University filed an application to establish the 3rd Science and Technology Basic Plan at the end of February 2006. Interviews and examinations of documents by the national government resulted in a proposal by Hokkaido University – one of nine proposals that were selected. The purpose of the program proposed by Hokkaido University is the creation of a program for developing human resources and conducting practical studies that accelerate the development of useful new drugs and technologies for diagnosis and therapies. It also aims at benefiting next-generation drug discovery and advanced medical care. Specifically, advanced biotechnology research findings will be integrated and concentrated under the program, R&D that leads to the ongoing creation of candidate next-generation drugs will be facilitated, and such R&D will be applied to advanced medical care at the university hospital. The R&D under the program will deal with the following: biologically relevant compounds, such as glycoconjugates and conjugated lipids; the design and synthesis of post-translational modified proteins; and structural analysis of disease-related proteins by means of NMR, X-ray imaging and photon imaging. Additionally, PET will be utilized for developing a next-generation imaging system for molecular measurement. The system will be applied to advanced medical care, including preclinical diagnosis, functional gene/regenerative therapies and molecular target/tracking therapies, for the purpose of promoting R&D for noninvasive, patient-friendly therapies. The Matching Program for Innovations in Future Drug Discovery and Medical Care was approved in 2008 under the third-year rescreening for confirmation to its second stage. Various research projects have been continually developed and expanded under the program.
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