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An interwoven vision of the future.
Making Kobe an international site for creating new industries.

Shin Kawamata

Center Director
Doctor of Medicine
Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation at Kobe
Research & Development Center for Cell Therapy

PROFILE

Shin Kawamata graduated from Kyoto University (Division of Physics, Faculty of Science) in 1981 and from Kobe University (School of Medicine) in 1990. He started work as a clinician (hematology) at Japanese Red Cross Wakayama Medical Center in 1991. He completed a pathology program at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in 1998 and moved to the United States. Following work at SYStemix Inc and the Stanford University School of Medicine (postdoctoral research), he was appointed as a senior researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation at the Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation at Kobe in 2002. Since 2015, he has been a visiting professor at the Tohoku University School of Medicine and an adjunct professor at Kobe University’s School of Medicine.

Broad initiatives to solve the problems of regenerative medicine

Japan has been the subject of international attention for regenerative medicine since it first succeeded at generating iPS cells. However, numerous problems remain for clinical applications. For example, there are no models for evaluating clinical effectiveness, and evaluation criteria have not been set for safety tests and tumorigenicity tests. The standardization of human cells, which are the starting material, and the creation of a quality-assured production system have just begun.

The Research & Development Center for Cell Therapy solves the problems of Regenerative medicine in Japan one by one in order to achieve clinical applications and industrialization. They are engaged in basic research to test and evaluate cells, creating a support system for clinical tests, research into cell standardization to assure safety, developing technology to manufacture cells for clinical use in line with the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, and other broad initiatives. In January 2019, manufacturing technology for Kymriah (international nonproprietary name: tisagenlecleucel), an innovative CAR-T cell (chimeric antigen receptor T cell) immunotherapy, was transferred from Novartis, an international pharmaceutical manufacturer, and commercial manufacturing began in November 2020.

Although Japan has been the subject of attention for iPS cells, it is lagging behind the world in regenerative medicine. We have started to take on ambitious challenges in order to overcome this situation and improve Regenerative medicine in Japan so that it can compete at a world level.

Opening the path towards industrialization, cell standardization and production innovations

While we are engaged in various initiatives, I am looking forward the next five to ten years to focus specifically on the standardization of cells. The biggest problem for cell-based regenerative medicine is the varying quality of cells that are manually cultured. Under what conditions are they cultured? How should they be analyzed? My aim is to set some clear rules and criteria for cell standardization so that cells can be guaranteed safe with a stable supply.

Cell standardization is being actively discussed at gatherings of stem-cell research institutes from around the world, such as the International Stem Cell Banking Initiative (ISCBI). I actively participate in these international discussions as well as overseas academic conferences to promote the initiatives and results of the Center to the world. My current goal is to contribute international standards for cell standardization from Kobe.

Also, because the cells used in regenerative medicine are dependent on manual labor performed in a clean laboratory environment, the productivity is low. Therefore, the Center is attempting to manage information from all manufacturing stages with IIoT technology and to collaborate with other industries to develop Next-generation cell processing system to save the time and cost, and innovate manufacturing sites.

There are 370 members in the Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster, from public research institutes to medical institutes. I want to create a unified vision for the future that is only possible by weaving together the strengths of these groups.

Bringing in new corporations to create new industry in Kobe

The Center's series of initiatives is laying the groundwork for future industrialization. If we can standardize cells, corporations aiming to enter the regenerative medicine field for the first time can obtain guidelines for developing new products. Also, we can increase business opportunities by preparing a high-efficiency production model. My vision for the future is to stimulate venture-minded entrepreneurs with the Center's initiatives and to entice corporations to participate to create new industries that will contribute to sustainable development at the Kobe Biomedical Innovation Cluster.

I don't do well with established systems, and as a student, I abandoned my studies in order to roam India and Europe. Once I became a working adult, I traveled Middle Eastern countries through work, and after working at labs and universities in the United States as a researcher, I returned to Kobe in 2002. For me, Kobe is a place of stability and peace surrounded by abundant nature, where people and time slowly pass by. I feel great joy through my work in building the aforementioned future.