Ken Yamaguchi, MD, PhD
President, Shizuoka Cancer Center
Director, Shizuoka Cancer Center Research Institute
Medical- and wellness-related resources are concentrated in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture, including leading manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, research organizations and some of Japan’s finest spa health resorts. To utilize these resources at the occasion of founding the Shizuoka Cancer Center, Shizuoka prefecture launched the Pharma Valley Project in 2001, which acts as a catalyst for cooperation between industry, academia and the public sector to conduct world-class research and development in the medical and wellness industry, and generate new businesses. The Shizuoka Cancer Center plays a key role in this project.
Eastern Part of Shizuoka Prefecture (Hokkaido Chizu Co., Ltd.)
The primary objective of the Pharma Valley Project is to establish a medical care castle-town around the Shizuoka Cancer Center and extending to the development of an industrial cluster for medical healthcare. A large number of industries and organizations have participated in the cluster over the past eight years; these include several universities, global industries and local small-medium enterprises.
The second objective of the project is to provide the local community with the benefit by project’s results, as set out in the ‘Pharma Valley Declaration’. The declaration insists that “We, taking the standpoint of patients and families, declare to foster and accumulate the wisdom, fight disease together, and support each other, to contribute to the realization of a healthy society”. This means that local cancer patients are able to receive sophisticated cancer treatment and that local companies should realize great advantages by being part of the project. The Declaration is shared, as a standard of conduct, by all those who are involved in the project.
Main region where the project is practiced: Shizuoka Cancer Center and Mount Fuji
In the Pharma Valley Project, success originates the fact that research topics were narrowed to the following three points. 1) translational research that brings the research results up to the stage of actual clinical use, 2) niche research reflecting the voice of the medical professionals and patients on the developed products, 3) the medical-industry joint development of next generation medical equipment and new products. Not only Japanese but also foreign capital companies will benefit by this style of research.
Another important research policy is an equal partnership between industry, academia, hospital staffs and researchers to promote the project.
As a merge of translational and clinical research, drug discovery, diagnostic reagent development and clinical trials are conducting by the Pharma Valley Project. The project supports a large-scale drug discovery platform covering development from target search to clinical trial utilizing the sequential research framework provided by the Pharma Valley Center, University of Shizuoka and the Shizuoka Cancer Center. The University of Shizuoka is responsible for drug discovery, conducting research into potential anti-cancer drugs and anti-virus agents utilizing a chemical compound library of 70,000 potential targets. The Shizuoka Cancer Center conducts collaborative research for the development of anti-cancer drugs from basic research to clinical research; the center is top-ranked in Japan for clinical trials on anti-cancer drugs. In order to enable pharmaceutical firms to conduct clinical trial very efficiently, the center introduced a special electronic health record system. Furthermore, the Shizuoka clinical trial network was established in order to make the execution of clinical trials more efficient. The network consists of 29 hospitals throughout Shizuoka Prefecture, comprising 14,000 beds.
Shizuoka Cancer Center Research institute and the Pharma Valley Center
The Pharma Valley Project leads research into the rich and varied regional resources to be found in the Shizuoka area adjacent to Mount Fuji. For example, the Regional Resources Research Division in the Shizuoka Cancer Center Research Institute conducts research into the senses of smell and taste utilizing genomics, proteomics and metabolomics. Through this initiative, the division in collaboration with Takasago International is conducting research in the area of byoshu, or the smell produced by illnesses such as certain types of cancer.
The Izu Peninsula in east Shizuoka is one of the most popular destinations for hot springs in the world. The Pharma Valley Center also supports the Kakaritsuke-yu program — a network of hot-spring hotels providing services aimed at improving health and spirit.
Keywords of the Pharma Valley Project are ‘‘making products, people and a town that cater to ‘bedside needs.’ ’’ In Japan, it is said that there are around 50 clusters that are related to biology and medicine. So the Pharma Valley Project tries to distinguish its activity by focusing on making things that reflect the practical needs of doctors, nurses, patients and the general public, using Shizuoka’s medical product manufacturing strengths.
The Pharma Valley Project contributes to the vitalization of regional healthcare product manufacturers as well as local pharmaceutical companies by playing a critical role in maintaining intellectual property rights and in the sales and marketing of commercial products. Although it is usually difficult for enterprises to enter the medical field because of regulations, etc., the project can offer support to facilitate their entry. The support system is becoming firm, and some companies have succeeded in entering the medical device sector based on its original technology for the fabrication of automotive parts. Many of the products produced under the program have been utilized in clinical practice.
The Pharma Valley Project also consolidates the manufacturing system and sales promotion with the aim of marketing the products developed and manufactured in the cluster on a global basis. The Pharma Valley Project invites coordinators with specialized knowledge and experience in worldwide sales, and promotes the products commercially with the trademark of ‘Made in Mt. Fuji Country’.
Further information will be obtained at the website of the Pharma Valley Center