Japan is set to launch its version of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, calling it the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, or AMED. The "Japanese NIH" becomes official April 1, to focus on new drugs and devices.
AMED begins with a $1.2 billion budget, and although called the Japanese NIH, its approach to coordinating research and development in health areas is more like that of the United Kingdom.
The government was motivated to make the change, in part, to trim the widely criticized time it takes to get a drug from the basic-research stage to the Japanese market and to help reduce the nation's trade deficit in pharmaceuticals and medical devices that reached as high as $17 billion in 2011.
As is the U.S. NIH, AMED is intended to function as an independent institution to steer and fund studies of new drug treatments and medical devices. In Japan, there is a need for new treatments useful to a fast-aging society.
AMED is to open with studies transferred from various other institutions, including research universities, to be put under its umbrella as a single point of contact for collaboration in the field in Japan.
Many of its responsibilities are to be phased in over a 5-year period.
With the move, the government, in effect, dispenses with an R&D system that operated insufficiently, with medical research shared by three ministries: health, education and commerce.