Vol.14, February 2019
Haruhiro Okuda, Ph.D.
National Institute of Health Sciences
History of NIHS and its Goals
The National Institute of Health Sciences or “Kokuritsueiken” was established in 1874. It has the longest history out of all national research institutes. In early Meiji era, when the introduction of western medicine became widespread, many bad drugs came into Japan. Therefore, the government of the time established the “Tokyo Medicines Control Laboratory" to chemically analyze and examine medicines with advice from Anton Johannes Cornelis Geerts, a Dutch pharmacologist who brought in from overseas. This is the origin of our institute.
Incidentally, Dr. Geerts made significant contributions to the development of Japanese pharmaceutical sciences, and he made the first draft of the Japanese Pharmacopoeia. In order to commemorate his contributions, a part of the preamble of the Japanese Pharmacopoeia is printed on the wall of the multipurpose space near the entrance of our institute.
After that, the times changed, and not only pharmaceuticals but also foods and various chemical substances around us were included in our scope, but the basic stance remains unchanged. We are conducting testing, research and studies to evaluate quality, safety and efficacy of these materials. The purpose of the research is to help maintain and improve the health and living environment of the people through health, labor and welfare administration. This kind of research is called regulatory science, and at our institute, we simply say that “our research institute is practicing regulatory science”.
At NIHS there are 20 research departments that largely engaged in four main areas.
The first is the Divisions of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and regenerative medical products. Here, research on developing and standardizing the evaluation methods for quality, safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products, cellular and tissue-based products including iPS cells, and medical devices, promoting the proper use of pharmaceuticals, and detecting biomarkers related to serious adverse drug reactions.
The second is the Divisions of environmental health and food safety. We are conducting research on analytical methods for contaminants in foods, establishing standards for food additives, and preventing health hazards caused by norovirus and food poisoning bacteria, etc.
The third is the Center for biological safety and research. At the center, we conduct testing and research to evaluate the safety and efficacy of chemical substances using experimental animals and cells.
In the Divisions of multi-disciplinary area, information gathering and basic supports, we are conducting organic chemistry research on pharmaceuticals, biochemical research on allergies caused by chemical substances, and collecting, assessing and disseminating safety information on domestic and overseas foods.
Specific Mission at KING SKYFRONT
We have three main pillars for conducting research at KING SKYFRONT.
Pillar 1 is regulatory science for research and development of cutting-edge medical products. It is research base for developing new drugs smoothly, to be delivered safely and quickly to patients.
Pillar 2 is regulatory science for risk analysis for food and environmental safety. It is research for safeguarding the health and safety of citizens.
Pillar 3 is national tests and examination as well as health crisis management. It is also the objective for the establishment of the NIHS, and we intend to conduct the pillar, regarding the research as indispensable for securing the security of the public.
We have started research on an interdisciplinary platform of the three areas of medicines, foods, and chemical substances using AI, which crosses all three pillars.
Cooperation with Local Institutions
Actually, we are already collaborating with Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health and Central Institute for Experimental Animals. Collaborative research has also been started with academia that has moved into this area. The KING SKYFRONT Network Association was formed early this year to share information. Through this network, we also announce seminars and so on and invite researchers from other institutions to participate. Through such opportunities we hope that the exchange of information among researchers will spread and that a new research themes will be created.
Expectation for KING SKYFRONT
This area is one of the centers of the Keihin coastal area Life Innovation International Strategy Comprehensive Special Zone aiming at the development and manufacture of innovative pharmaceuticals and medical devices and the creation of health related industries. Many research institutes and companies are accumulating here. In cooperation with the people of this area, the NIHS wants to make this district the base of the 21st century regulatory science.
The international nature of this area is also a big attraction. It is located in front of Tokyo International Airport, and it will become even closer after the completion of a bridge over Tama River in 2020. We have many opportunities to prepare standards and guidelines. International harmonization is indispensable for making such standards. As the international airport become closer, then it will become easier for overseas researchers to visit NIHS, and opportunities that we can get firsthand information from overseas will increase, and making it smoother to devise standards that can be used around the world.
I strongly hope to contribute to the science of this area by conducting research that makes use of the advantages of being based at KING SKYFRONT.