The Five-Year Achievements of the Matching Program for Innovations in Future Drug Discovery and Medical Care:
Entering a new stage of development through stronger relationships with counterpart businesses
Director of Frontier Research Center for Post-genome Science and Technology Specially Appointed Professor, Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Hokkaido University
This year marks the sixth year of Hokkaido University's drug discovery and medical care program, one of the Matching Programs for Innovations in Future Drug Discovery and Medical Care. Together with the Graduate School of Medicine and five businesses (Shionogi & Co., Ltd., Hitachi, Ltd., Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd., Nihon Medi-Physics Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.), we have brought forth a number of substantial results that will be the basis for further research on drug discovery.
Regarding the efforts made in the past five years, a few things deserve special mention. The first is the completion of the Shionogi Innovation Center for Drug Discovery in April 2008. This center was built to support new collaborations between industry and academia, in which researchers in the two areas directly work together. Located next to the Frontier Research Center for Post-genome Science and Technology, the center has promoted research collaboration between industry and academia so innovatively that the conventional ways of looking at academic-industrial partnership have completely changed. It is the nation's first full-scale private-sector research facility built on the premises of a national university. It has drawn attention at home and abroad. I am proud that the facility serves as a model for industry-academia collaboration and provides great encouragement for all those Japanese who are striving to improve such collaboration.
The second is the promising results of the three priority drug discovery research projects that were chosen after several discussions with the collaborating companies in fiscal 2011. These are the exploration of two novel antibacterial drugs based on the structural biological approach of fragment-based drug design (FBDD) and the regulation of lipid metabolism by membrane sphingolipids. Following the establishment of the "glycoblotting" technique, which is a new method in glycomics that is called "PCR for sugar chains," new research subjects have been pursued for exhaustive sugar analysis not only of N-type glycoproteins but also of O-type glycoproteins, glucolipids and proteoglycans. Some projects that entered the developmental stage have been spun off to other national projects or have been used in business ventures.
We have been promoting our activities for enhanced industry-academia collaboration and for the global dissemination of information on what we are doing. These activities include the hosting of year-round seminars for graduate students, in which researchers invited from business serve as lecturers, and the holding of successful international symposia to which leading researchers have been invited from abroad.
Toward establishing a pioneering system for industry-academia collaboration in Japan, mechanisms of innovation and a philosophy of ideal collaboration are being developed steadily in our everyday efforts.
The program will be a long-term endeavor, requiring 10 to 15 years. Bravely advancing this program by building on past achievements will require an international viewpoint and everyday work to discover drugs by making use of novel research from around the world. These activities must be promoted in a framework of international collaboration.
In closing, I would like to note that the success of the program depends on developing internationally competitive products within 10 to 15 years. I will do my best together with the other program participants. Only when we have achieved our goal will we be able to know the real value of all the efforts we've expended during our first five years.