The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

COMMITTEE | BIOSCIENCES

January 2014

A New Frontier
ACCJ group provides forum for exciting medical-related issues

By Megan Waters
ACCJ Journal editor-in-chief

For those wanting to learn more about areas of fast-paced, key research that promise significantly to affect health and human society, attending an event arranged by the ACCJ Biosciences Subcommittee could be just the ticket. Founded in 2010, the group was initially established to focus on bioinformatics—the analysis of DNA sequence information.

According to Paul Cizdziel, subcommittee chair, although the bioscience frontier can be controversial and hard to predict, the subcommittee makes it possible for its 46 members and event participants to explore new realms with experts. They can learn and consider how such technologies may one day impact their lives and businesses.

The biggest challenge to the bioscience industry in Japan, according to Cizdziel, is translational medicine and technology commercialization. Both involve taking inventions out of the laboratory and creating a business model to commercialize, support, and grow the idea to a drug, product, or entirely new industry (e.g. regenerative medicine).

“This requires good ideas, entrepreneurs, experienced risk managers, capital investment and venture company infrastructure to work together to ensure success.

“These ingredients are uncommon or cumbersome in Japan compared with some other regions, where successful start-up companies are more common,” he said.

The main aim of the subcommittee is to improve the bioscience business environment in Japan through establishing networks with local Japanese bioscience organizations, facilitating communication among thought leaders and companies, and providing a forum for thought-provoking bioscience topics for the purpose of education and entertainment.

“Our current focus is mostly related to regenerative medicine and stem cell technologies, where we want to contribute to the establishment of guidelines, ideas, and international standards for future commercial and medical applications,” he said.

The subcommittee differs from other ACCJ groups in terms of interest and event topics, which cover broad ground. The group has held gatherings on such topics as pharmaceutical intellectual property, stem cell technology, space science, and clinical research. It often partners with other committees to co-host events of common interest.

The subcommittee’s biggest—and most successful—event to date was the seminar, “Recent Progress in iPS Cell Research Towards Regenerative Medicine.” Held on October 28 at the Tokyo American Club, the luncheon was co-hosted with the Healthcare Committee and attracted a record 136 people—making it one of the ACCJ’s highlights of 2013.

At the event, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, gave a presentation on the award-winning technology he had developed.

Yamanaka, Cizdziel believes, is globally recognized and possibly the single most influential figure in science in Japan today.

“In the future, we hope to invite other notable speakers from the pages of Nobel history, and perhaps provide a forum to discuss the impact of personal DNA genome information on the future of life and medicine, including ethical and privacy and insurance implications,” he said.

“We also hope to have other regenerative medicine topics, and have a speaker event on the pros, cons, and misconceptions concerning vaccines.”

To watch Dr. Shinya Yamanaka’s presentation at the ACCJ’s “Recent Progress in iPS Cell Research Towards Regenerative Medicine,” please visit:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXpZRqRm_I4