29
Jun 2016
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Japan's Dr. Shinya Yamanaka

Japan's Dr. Shinya Yamanaka

Predicting $120-billion market, Japan targets stem cells to recharge economy

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Japan believes regenerative medicine will grow from a $950-million domestic industry in 2020 to a $10 billion one by 2030, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

And the Japanese expect to tap into a $120-billion global market over the same time span if regenerative medicine fulfills its potential to set off “a medical and industrial revolution.”

The Bloomberg report illustrates how Japan is building on Nobel Prize winner Dr. Shinya Yamanaka’s discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) to help recharge its economy.  The government has allocated $1 billion in funding and streamlined regulations to expedite the movement of research to the clinic. Meanwhile industrial heavyweights like Fujifilm and Hitachi Ltd. are moving away from fading product lines and diminishing markets to invest in new technology and products using Dr. Yamanaka’s discovery.

“Japan has taken a bold step,” Dr. Hardy TS Kagimoto, who heads the Healios KK biotech firm, told Bloomberg. “It’s been a while since our country has had innovative companies in a global industry that can help us maintain economic power, and we think regenerative medicine can be the one.’’

The powerful iPS cells are made by reprogramming adult skin cells back to an embryonic-like state, a process that circumvents ethical concerns over the use of embryonic stem cells.  Beyond transplant purposes, the cells can be used to screen drugs, which Dr Yamanaka believes could “facilitate drug development tremendously.”

Drug regulators in Japan, Europe and U.S. are expected to release coordinated draft drug guidelines for the use of iPS cells in pre-clinical trials by the end of 2017, according to the article, which “could upend the entire market.”

Canada, where stem cells were discovered in the 1960s, is a leader in stem cell research and development but is at risk of losing ground. James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation (CSCF) recently authored an iPolitics article calling for a comprehensive national approach:

“In order to maintain our position as a global leader in the field that we discovered and pioneered, to help thousands of Canadians and their loved ones who are struggling with life-threatening conditions, and to transform the stem cell sector into a thriving industry built on of high-quality jobs that support families across the country, we need a truly national stem cell effort.”

The CSCF advocates for the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, an innovative private-public partnership that is the product of consultations with 150 scientists, medical professionals, leaders from major health charities, industry experts and philanthropists.  The goal of the Strategy is to deliver up to 10 new therapies in 10 years while helping to grow the Canadian economy and create 12,000 new jobs.

 

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