Saturday, March 08, 2014

Japanese and California Stem Cell Affairs: An Opportunity to Make a Connection

This baby is a spin-off in Japan from CIRM-financed research.  Kazuhiro Kawamura 
of the St. Mariana School of Medicine delivered the child, which he is holding.
 (Kawamura photo)
Scientists and other stem cell fanciers in Japan will have their first chance this Thursday to take part in a meeting of the governing board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

Ken Burtis
UC Davis photo
That's because one of the board members, Ken Burtis of UC Davis, is in Nara, Japan, for a visit on the day of the meeting in Burlingame, Ca. He will be linked to the session via a telephone connection. It will be a two-way hookup that the public can use to participate, a requirement of California state law.

Stem cells are a hot scientific and commercial topic in Japan. According to an article last November in the Japan Times, the country's regenerative medicine market is expected to climb to $15.85 billion in 2030, up from $260 million in 2012. Japan is also the home of the induced pluripotent stem cell, which was first produced there.

Burtis is a professor of genetics and provost at UC Davis. It was not immediately known whether his visit to Japan involved UC Davis, the stem cell agency or was personal.

Burtis' access to the stem cell meeting, which includes a lengthy briefing on the agency's development portfolio, will be from the Hotel Nikko in Nara. Interested parties will be able to participate from the room in which Burtis is monitoring the meeting. However, the meeting agenda does not specify a room number. That will have to be obtained by emailing the stem cell agency at It is best to do that well in advance of the meeting.

This week's meeting has nothing specific on the agenda related to Japanese stem cell affairs, but stem cell research is a global matter. Researchers and others in Japan may well learn something new, particularly from the briefing on the agency's portfolio, and will have an opportunity to pose questions. Additionally, the board will be considering $72 million in "concept" proposals to speed commercialization of stem cell research, which could well be of interest to Japanese stem cell researchers and biotech firms even if they are not eligible for awards.

The California stem cell agency, which is known as CIRM, has also had a collaborative arrangement with Japan Science and Technology Agency since 2008.

Masaya Nakamura
Keio photo
Aileen Anderson
UCI photo
The agreement has resulted in one collaborative funding project involving Aileen Anderson of UC Irvine and Masaya Nakamura of Keio University. Anderson has received $1.3 million from CIRM, which did not announce the amount of funding that Japan provided to Nakamura.

Aaron Hsueh
AFP photo
Aaron Hsueh of Stanford received $2 million from CIRM for work that later led to a novel way of treating some forms of infertility and further work with Japanese researchers. One child has been born in Japan using the techninque. Kazuhiro Kawamura (pictured at the top of this item) and others at St. Mariana University School of Medicine were involved in that effort, which was not funded by CIRM. Another woman was pregnant as of October 2013. No information about the result of that pregnancy was immediately available. (See here and here.)

(Editor's note: This item has been altered slightly from the original version to make it clearer what is on the agenda this Thursday and its relationship to Japan. The headline has been reworded. No information has been dropped.) 

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