Stem cell laws in Japan a magnet for research, Nikkei says

Japan is building upon efforts last year to boost its standing as a regenerative medicine research hub with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently highlighting the field as key to the country's plans to revitalize the economy.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Abe is pushing for more collaborations between industry and academia under a new legal framework in place since last fall that has put Japan in pole position as the most liberalized market for regenerative products and services, Nikkei Asian Review said.

Abe has launched a series of campaigns aimed at technological developments in drugs and devices at a basic research level that would marry companies and public funds to produce cutting-edge therapies with a focus on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) stem cells even after a scandal that culminated this year on faked research in the field by a noted researcher at the prestigious Riken Institute.

Earlier this month, Japan's Center for iPS Cell Research Application (CiRA) of Kyoto University announced it hopes to ramp up clinical tests by early next year with unspecified clinical research projects aimed at finding possible cures for various diseases as academic, clinical and private sector efforts merge, Nikkei reported.

One key for the push is an iPS cell stockpile that could significantly cut the cost of regenerative treatments that is often hundreds of millions of yen, Naoko Takasu, the head of the medical applications promotion office at CiRA, told Nikkei in an earlier story.

The stockpile is linked to legislation that took effect in November that opened the door for businesses other than hospitals and research institutes to produce cells for medical use, Nikkei said.

The pharmaceutical law revision, also implemented in November, shortened the approval process for the cells, Nikkei added, noting that means there is no need for a third stage of clinical trials to gain authorization.

U.S.-based Minerva Biotechnologies and iPS Academia Japan, for example, this month signed an agreement allowing Minerva worldwide rights to use and commercialize the iPS portfolio arising from the work of Nobel laureate Professor Shinya Yamanaka.

- here's the story from Nikkei Asian Review (sub. reqd.)