2020 Volume 2 Issue 2 Pages 42-46
In 2014, the Kyushu University Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) established a program to develop collaborations and harmonization strategies for translational science in the Asia-Pacific region. The program utilized connections between academia, industry and government in Japan to act as hosts to talented medical innovators who can contribute to developing new innovations in the region. The CCTR called 51 participants from ten Asia-Pacific countries to take part in an intensive program to visit facilities on the front line of medical innovation in Japan so that they may take the knowledge back to their countries and make fruitful collaborations between their institutions and Japan counterparts.
● Establishment of a novel Asia-Pacific Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration program.
● The participants were recruited from the Asia-Pacific countries.
● The participants visited universities, industrial facilities, and government organizations in Japan.
The National Translational Research Promotion Program started in 2007 to promote the development of translational science in Japan . Based on this program, Academic Research Organization (ARO) core centers, relevant to Translational and Clinical Research Core Centers were developed at eleven universities and four national centers in Japan. Following this, the Translational Research Network Program was established in 2012 (https://www.amed.go.jp/en/program/list/05/01/001.html, accessed April 9, 2020). One of the aims of this program is the strengthening of the ability of Japanese institutions to compete on an international level. Improving internationalization in Japanese universities is key to achieving this objective. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are still in the early stages of setting up systems for drug development. Japan has distinguished itself as a leading country in medical research with notable Japanese Nobel laureates revolutionizing the R&D landscape with their discoveries. Also, since therapies and medical devices developed and manufactured in Japan are expected to expand to wider Asia-Pacific markets in the future, an educational program which strengthens the collaboration and harmonization of translational science in Asia-Pacific will be a valuable way to contribute to the goals of the Translational Research Network Program.
In 2014, the Kyushu University Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) established the Japan Medical Innovation Program (JMIP), to develop collaborations and harmonization strategies for translational science in the Asia-Pacific region. The JMIP is a short-term invitation program to give young researchers in the Asia-Pacific region opportunities to experience the cutting-edge science and technology of Japan. This program was created with reference to the Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars Program (https://mansfieldfdn.org/program/strengthening- government-and-expert-networks/phrma/, accessed April 9, 2020). The Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars Program is a two-week program that brings young researchers from Japan to the United States to learn about healthcare policy, pharmaceutical research, regulatory practices, and translational research. The participants of The Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars Program are selected from Japanese national institutes, private university, or university-affiliated institutions. Participants met with senior experts from universities, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and the policy community in United States. Professor Sugiyama from Kyushu University is an alumnus of the program which served as an inspiration for the JMIP. The JMIP was selected by the Sakura Science Exchange Program, which is a short-term invitation program to give the aspiring youth in the Asia-Pacific region opportunities to experience cutting-edge science and technology in Japan (https://ssp.jst.go.jp/EN/outline/index.html, accessed April 9, 2020). Here, we report the establishment of the JMIP and analyzed the data of applications and participants.
The JMIP team sent emails to the faculty heads of universities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Laos, China, and Myanmar with application instructions and application forms. From the second JMIP, recruitment was conducted through both emails to faculty heads in universities and the JMIP page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Japanmedicalinnovationprogram/, 04-09-2020). After the first program was conducted, alumni were requested to advertise their experiences for recruitment of participants for the second JMIP onwards. Applicants were required to submit an application form, curriculum vitae (CV), a passport photo, a 300–500 word essay concerning their motivation to apply for the program, and two letters of recommendation.
The participants were selected in two steps. The first step was document screening. Upon receiving the applications, the applicants were selected based on their application form, essay, and recommendation letters, by JMIP staff at Kyushu University. We asked the previous participants to review the applicants from the second JMIP onwards. Some of them contributed to this review. The criteria of the Sakura Science Exchange Program are that applicants must be university or graduate school students, postdoctoral researchers, or teachers, who are under 40 years old, who have nationality in APAC countries, and who have never stayed long-term in Japan before. (Applicants who have visited Japan short-term (less than10 days) are eligible as the participants). We used these criteria as preconditions for applicants of JMIP. Based on their application form, essay, and recommendation letters, the reviewers provided scores of either 1, 3, or 5 on three different evaluation points, “collaboration and harmonization”, “contribution”, and “overall application” during the first selection (Table 1). Applicants with the top scores were selected from each country. The results of the primary application were announced by e-mail. At the second step, we performed 5–10 min interview via Skype with the JMIP staff of Kyushu University. The primary purpose of the Skype interviews was to assess the English ability of the candidates and to make a final decision about the suitability of the candidates for the program. A list of questions for the Skype interviews are shown in Table 1. After the Skype interview, the applicants were short listed to be moved on to final selection and emails announcing the results were sent to the applicants. A final face-to-face meeting for the selection of participants was held among JMIP staff (Kyushu University faculty) where the final placements were decided, and the results were announced by e-mail. Up to two applicants were selected as participants from each country. For the purpose of tracking the results, participants and applicants were counted by their nationality (not country of residence).
Before participants came to Japan, they were given information about each of the facilities they would be visiting and requested to write short reports on each company to prepare them for the program. Upon arrival in Japan, each iteration of the JMIP commenced with a kick-off meeting at Kyushu University. At this meeting, participants of this program presented self-introductions, explained their research background, and summarized information about the facility they were most interested in visiting. After the kick-off meeting, participants visited the facilities of Kyushu University (Molecular and Cell Processing Center, Inspection unit, and Overseas exchange center), followed by the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA), Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED), biotech companies, Pharmaceutical companies, and clinical research organizations listed in Table 2. Through this program, the participants learned about the actual manufacturing processes of drugs, how to evaluate the safety of drugs, and international collaboration strategies; especially with Asia-Pacific countries and regions, and discussed future cooperative research. While on the program the participants were asked to prepare PowerPoint presentations for the closing ceremony. The final event of each JMIP was a closing ceremony where participants presented details of the facility most interested to them, a summary of the program, and future plans in their institutions.
To this date the JMIP team carried out the JMIP seven times and received total 236 applications from 14 countries and regions (Fig. 1A). The number of applicants fluctuated, but on average 34 people applied per JMIP (Fig. 1A). Malaysia had the highest number of applicants, followed by Mongolia, Indonesia and Vietnam (Fig. 1B). One applicant who was based in Hong Kong applied for the program but was not a national of any Asia-Pacific country meaning that this application could not be accepted. After selection of participants, we invited four to ten of participants per JMIP and executed the program (Fig. 2A). Malaysia also had the highest number of total participants, followed by Indonesia, Mongolia, and Singapore (Fig. 2B). Detailed reports of the activities are published on the JMIP Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Japanmedicalinnovationprogram/, accessed April 9, 2020). So far, the CCTR has recruited 51 young researchers from ten countries to take part in JMIP to directly experience the current medical innovation landscape in Japan. As a result of this program, three out of 51 participants have been in contact with the JMIP team with regards to their activities in Japan. One participant from the Malaysia came to Japan to do a post-graduate degree, another Malaysian participant came to perform collaborative research at Dr. Sugiyama’s lab, and one Taiwanese participant came back to Japan on business and visited Kyushu University.
The countries, regions and the number of applicants. (A) Bar graph showing the number of applicants in each program. The total number of applicants in each program are shown in the right of the bar. (B) Pie chart showing the total number of applicants and their countries and regions. The number of applicants in each countries or regions are shown in the legend.
The countries, regions and the number of participants. (A) Bar graph showing the number of participants in each program. The total number of participants in each program are shown in the top of the bar. (B) Pie chart showing the total number of participants and their countries and regions. The number of participants in each country or region are shown in the legend.
The Kyushu University CCTR established a short-term invitation program to give the young researchers in Asia-Pacific countries and regions opportunities to learn about science and technology landscape of Japan. The participants took knowledge back to their countries with the hope of making fruitful future collaborations between their institutions and Kyushu University.
The JMIP has been successful in exposing promising young researchers in the Asia-Pacific region to cutting-edge science and technology of Japan. Through this program, three notable participants have returned to Japan as a University or academic institution researchers in Japan, and cooperative research was conducted between one researcher and Department of Research and Development of Next Generation Medicine, Kyushu University via the CCTR. In future, we hope to more formally engage participants of this program to further strengthen professional networking and cooperative research opportunities. We hope that the JMIP structure described here can be a model for method developing translational science both in Japan and around the world.
The authors would like to acknowledge the leadership, guidance, and support of Dr. Eishi Baba (director of the Kyushu University CCTR) and Dr. Yoichi Nakanishi (previous director of the Kyushu University CCTR). We would like to give a special thanks to the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, PMDA, AMED, companies and institutions listed in Table 2, and administrative staff of the Incubation Center for Advanced Medical Science, Kyushu University, and staff of the Department of Research and Development of Next Generation Medicine, Kyushu University. Financial support for this program was provided by Japan Science and Technology Agency, SAKURA science exchange program, Sakura Science Plan and Kyushu University CCTR.