In our previous article, we reported the historical connection between
Osaka and biotechnology and the latest trend of local bioventures.
Bio, or biotechnology, is considered universal in a way and does not
limit itself to a certain community. While such universality is the
major part of its value, biotechnology and its industry does reflect
the local characteristics of the community they are based in. By focusing
on the environment that surrounds the Osaka-based biotechnology industry,
we would like to examine its strength, potential contribution to the
community of Osaka in the future, and possible issues and challenges
that it may face.
What is the biggest strength of Osaka-based bioindustry? Ryuichi
Morishita, M.D., Ph.D., a Professor at Osaka University Graduate School
of Medicine, summarizes that it is a “co-existence of research laboratories
and business headquarters.” In addition, local academic institutions,
such as Osaka University and Kyoto University, are known for their
achievements in the field of life science and are a great advantage
to biotechnology research in Osaka. Meanwhile, a number of major pharmaceutical
companies, which originated in the Doshomachi district in the Edo period,
still have their headquarters in Osaka. Now that the nation’s economic
and financial center has moved to Tokyo, Osaka-based businesses need
to have a concrete reason to stay in the community by being locally
unique and being able to directly communicate with the rest of the
“In that sense, Osaka’s pharmaceutical industry is directly connected to the
world and has gained global recognition without going through Tokyo. And the
companies are bringing money from around the world,” says Morishita. “I have
no doubt that the industry will be a driving force for the future of Osaka and
therefore is very important.”
There are, of course, some challenges that the industry may anticipate.
“It is a shame that Osaka has lost the great tradition of university-industry
partnerships. Fund investment is still centered on something ‘large and heavy.’
They are interested in hardware but not so much in research and development.”
Morishita also expresses his concern about the vulnerability of the environment
that surrounds research and development activities, including the insufficient
number of think tanks compared to Tokyo. Although the situation has been improving
in recent years, Morishita thinks that society still needs to build a system
in which business profits and personal assets may flow back to basic research
projects that eventually help achieve social goals. He maintains the hope that
many Osaka-based entrepreneurs may be obliging and expects that a local business
tradition to support activities for the benefit of society may be maintained.
Morishita says that there are some business owners who have chosen to assist
projects because of their concerns about the prospect of future generations.
(Kitahama, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi)
-Established in the mid 19th century,
Tekijuku school attracted a number of talented figures from all
over the country, many of whom later played a leading role in
the development of modern Japan. Tekijuku later became what is
today’s Osaka University.
Morishita says that Osaka is a rare
example of a community in which both a long history and cutting-edge
biotechnology coexist, encouraging the people of Osaka to be
more proud of the city. He believes that by fostering dreams
for the next generations while cherishing its historical assets,
Osaka may recover its vitality and refresh its appeals on its
own. “Osaka’s future is over if it loses its pride,” says Morishita.
“People of Osaka need to remember that our stories and pride
as a community built by people are invaluable.”
Morishita’s above comment, which he made at the end of our interview,
should summarize all the challenges and perspectives that Osaka
may be facing.
November 16, 2007
Text by Michi Komura, Osaka Brand Center
Professor, Division of Clinical Gene Therapy Science, Osaka University,
Graduate School of Medicine (2003 to present). Founder and director of
AnGes MG, Inc.
Morishita was born in Okayama Prefecture. He graduated from Osaka University
Medical School in 1987 and finished his postdoctoral research at Stanford
University School of Medicine in 1991. He was appointed as Associate
Professor, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Osaka University Graduate
School of Medicine in 2003.
Morishita is currently a member of the Intellectual Property Policy Committee,
Structural Reform Council, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. He
is also a member of the Council for Science and Technology, Ministry
of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. From 2003 to 2007,
Morishita served as a member of the Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters
(Director General: Prime Minister).
Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine http://www.med.osaka-u.ac.jp/index-jp.html
AnGes MG, Inc. http://www.anges-mg.com/
Doctors Blog http://blog.m3.com/