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Nobel Laureate Yamanaka calls for better research support

June 4, 2014

The LDP's National Vision Project Headquarters (Chairperson: Shunichi Yamaguchi, member of the House of Representatives) invited Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, director of the Center for IPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University, to speak to its 22nd study group. The meeting was held on June 4 to discuss the "Japan in 2030" project. Prof. Yamanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology / Medicine in 2012.


iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) are a form of an "all-powerful" cell able to divide into many different kinds of cells through the introduction of four specific genes into skin and other cells. In 2006, Prof. Yamanaka and his research group successfully created them from mice. The next year, 2007, they created them from human skin cells.


During his speech, Prof. Yamanaka presented the population pyramid for Japan as its population ages. He identified the increase in patients requiring nursing care and the lack of blood donors as healthcare issues that the country needs to address. He explained the current status of the iPS cell-based regenerative medicine and treatments being studied in Japanese research institutes and how they can help to overcome these healthcare issues.


Prof. Yamanaka also emphasized that "this takes more than researchers--you need a lot of staff to handle patents, fundraising, public relations, and other tasks." He noted that approximately 90% of the administrative and support staff members at his own institution were hired on limited-term contracts and expressed concern that talented individuals would move to the private sector if they were not given regular full-time positions.


During the question and answer session with diet members, Prof. Yamanaka commented on the amendments to the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act and the new Act to Ensure the Safety of Regenerative Medicine that passed in November of last year, and he spoke about their role in encouraging the practical application of iPS cell-based regenerative medicine. He characterized both laws as "significant progress" (towards practical application). He expressed gratitude for the LDP's efforts to date and hopes for further progress after the laws enter into effect this fall.

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