Japan eyes R&D bases to improve domestic vaccine development

Reuters file photo
Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken on Nov. 27, 2021.

The government has selected 11 institutions, including the University of Tokyo, as research and development bases to create vaccines in preparation for future pandemics, the education ministry announced Friday.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will provide each base with up to ¥7.7 billion in funding over the next five years to ensure swift development of domestic vaccines and drugs in the event of emergencies.

The United States and Europe have taken the lead in developing vaccines to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. Japan is yet to roll out a domestic COVID-19 vaccine.

The selection of world-class research and development bases in Japan is aimed at overcoming this situation.

The University of Tokyo was chosen as a flagship base to play a central role in vaccine development. The base will be headed by the world-renowned virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the university’s Institute of Medical Science.

Hokkaido University, Chiba University, Osaka University and Nagasaki University have been selected as bases that will conduct research in collaboration with the flagship base. The ministry also selected six support bases that have strengths in such fields as animal testing and analysis of disease risks.

To strengthen Japan’s research infrastructure, the bases will also promote the development of human resources in the fields of vaccine and virus research as Japan has a relatively small talent pool compared to the United States and Europe.

All the selected bases will conduct basic and applied studies, working with pharmaceutical companies.

A plan to establish the bases was included in a national strategy to strengthen research and development of domestic vaccines that was approved by the Cabinet in June last year.