Here we provide Panoramic View Report 2019, for life science and clinical research field. This report guides you to show the latest development of science and technology related to biological and medical science, ranging from basic to applied. The report mainly covers the recent topics in Japan, with comprehensive comparison to worldwide trends.
The topics and research area argued in this report are carefully chosen following our criteria: i) basic research topics which could contribute for applied biological/medical research in the future.
ii) transformative technological developments that are effective in wide range of science. Over all, research topics which could be applied by any means in the society are listed as much as possible.
As we identified that development in science/technology and the society activity are mutually influencing each other, we have provided the analysis on the influence from the society to scientific development in chapter one. This includes the overview of the research strategies and the dramatic changes in research system/facility observed in developed countries, mainly in the US and in Europe.
The detailed descriptions of recent development in science/technology in each topic are illustrated in chapter two; in total 35 topics are categorised into 5 sections, reflecting the direction of their application.
As argued in chapter one, findings of basic research contribute for the development and improvement of social foundations, such as health care, food security, and environmental issues. Outcomes of basic research provide precursors of new technologies, and such crude new technologies are applied in a small scale as test cases followed by bigger social implementation. The consequences and effectiveness are examined in the society and such assessment facilitates to identify the problems to be solved and to set new hypothesis to be examined in future basic research activities. Such iterative structure can be observed in the process of the application of the outcomes of basic research activities.
The worldwide trends of rise in precision medicine and bio-economy are the good examples of the research fields which have such iterative structure. Resent quick development of ICT related technologies has enabled to collect various types of big data from society, which in turn could provide clues of further research targets: the iterative nature of the relationship between basic research, applied science, and the implementation in society has to be recognised with further importance.
In such an era, cultivating science and technology itself as a culture of society and people, that is, continue to create diverse and creative cutting edge "knowledge" assets, and with society and people It is necessary to form a culture that develops science as a society while mutually giving feedback through dialogue. Naturally, this is not a problem solved only by universities etc., but policy makers, industry and scientific circles must cooperate and share in order to build a recycling-type ecosystem.
Rapid advances in ICT technology, including measurement technology, AI and machine learning, are changing the paradigm of research in the field and methods. The trend of automation and scale-up is expected to continue.
In the previous 2017 edition, in addition to the “hypothesis verification type” approach, the understanding of life phenomena has progressed by a new “data-driven” approach that discovers a rule from a large amount of life information. It is summarised that "prediction" will be a big direction.
In this 2019 edition, as its development system, researchers or research communities can now widely view the circulation structure of research and development and the spatiotemporal hierarchy of life as a research object and as a result of shortening of the technological progress cycle, we would like to mention that high throughput and high cost per research unit, that is,“ big science” is rapidly advancing.
As a stream of science, many genes and proteins of living organisms have been identified so far, but their interaction and spatiotemporal behaviour (dynamics) in living system can hardly be described. In the future, it is the natural flow that research is going on in correlation, dynamics, and prediction rather than the discovery of specific factors.
The other is, as typified by gene therapy, in addition to conventional physicochemical measurements, the concept of “society measurement” to observe and analyse various situations and fluctuations of society from a large amount of data is also needed.
Looking at the world's leading research institutes, two major direction were observed. One is that direction to dig and deeper into basic science with rich public funding such as the US Janelia Research Campus, UK MRC’s Molecular Biology Laboratory and Max Planck Institute in Germany. The other is that based on large-scale "Open Science, Collaboration (Biology + Medicine + Engineering + Informatics, Life Science + Medical Science + Hospital, Industry + Science, International)" system, with a direction to advance research in one stop from translation to translation, such as US Broad Institute, UK Francis Click Institute, and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).
Common to all cases is that, in Europe and the United States, core facilities and facility staff (technicians) are at the core as the research system for promoting cutting-edge emerging fusion research, open science, and collaborative research. For example, in Europe, multi-tiered infrastructure platform strategies are being developed for large-scale as well as small- and medium-sized devices, at research institute level, national level and European level. Therefore, the research support system (administration, bridging, human resources such as equipment management and development) culture has been nicely organised.
Academia in Japan is becoming decentralized and sectored, and it has become an environment and structure where research such as linking the spatiotemporal hierarchy of life through the cyclical structure of such research and development is difficult. In addition, the ecosystem has not been successfully constructed as to who is in charge of deep basic research and who is in charge of large-scale basic to applied research. The introduction of next-generation sequencing and cryo-electron microscopy is lagging behind in the world.
Looking at trends in publication in the field of life/clinical science, Japan also has a relatively low growth rate compared to other countries in the past 10 years, becoming in behind of Germany and the UK. In particular, looking at publications in the field of omics and informatics, which are emerging inter-disciplinal fields, it is clear that we cannot keep up with the world.
It is necessary in Japan to establish a research platform that can promote research in integrated data and information and establish a research ecosystem platform by networking. Policy makers and research communities should plan research initiatives/projects with aware of the following points.
In the following, based on the trends of the world and Japan (current situation and issues), we would like to examine the directionality of research that Japan should tackle. First, regarding trends in the world, the major trends of policy in each country in the past five years are organized as follows.
<Health and medical fields>
<Food and agriculture, Bio-based material production fields>
There are many common research themes that are major investment targets worldwide.
Research and development involving society and the public, as represented by individualization and stratification medicine and the bioeconomy, has become a major trend.
In addition, we have identified following six trends as the major trends in recent advancement in science and technology observed in Japan:
Next, we have found out following Japan’s strength comparing to worldwide research trends, based on the international benchmarks appeared in Chapter 2:
In basic research area,“ structural analysis”,“ extracellular particles”,“ immune science”, “science related to circadian rhythm”, “brain neuroscience”, “optical imaging”, “nuclear magnetic imaging”, “plant science”, “livestock science”, "Polymer drugs", "stem cells and regenerative medicine", "organoid", "lifestyle related diseases", and "mental and neurological diseases".
In applied science,“ extracellular particles”,“ fisheries, functional foods”,“ polymer drugs”, “stem cells and regenerative medicine”, and“ psychiatric disorders”.
On the other hand, Japan is not in the front line in the areas of “gene therapy and cell therapy”, and the area of “precision medicine for cancer treatment based on genomic information”.
Based on the analysis on global R&D trends, global policies, Japan's past policies, Japan's strengths, and weaknesses, we would propose following nine themes which have to receive public investment.
<Health and medical fields>
Global outlook: Personalized medicine
<Food and agriculture, Bio-based material production fields>
Global outlook: bioeconomy
<Science frontier fields>
Global outlook: Bridging Spatio-temporal Hierarchy in Multidimensional Life Systemse
It can be said that in common with these, research on data and information integration is required. In order to do so, it is necessary for researchers of mathematics and information to lead and create a platform for aggregating and integrating data and information from each researcher and to build a system for modelling.
In addition, under the recognition that ELSI (Ethical, Legal and Social Issues) is a codriver for innovation, it is essential for program projects that communication with society and the public is required to involve social scientists and legal scholars, etc. It is required that science be rooted in the culture of the country.