Osaka Brand Committee
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A Close Connection Between Osaka and Biotechnology--An Interview with Ryuichi Morishita Vol.2
A Close Connection Between Osaka and Biotechnology--An Interview with Ryuichi Morishita Vol. 1
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Biological field
 A Close Connection Between Osaka and Biotechnology -An Interview with Ryuichi Morishita Vol. 1

Genetic modification, cloning, and new drug development--when we hear the word “bio,” or biotechnology, we tend to think of something on the leading edge, which may be a bit far from our everyday lives. The fact is that biotechnology is supporting our lives in various familiar situations today, reflecting its original meaning “life.” Osaka, in fact, has been long known for its historic connection with biotechnology. In this interview series, we asked Ryuichi Morishita, M.D., Ph.D., a leading researcher in the area of clinical gene therapy, and a Professor at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, about the relationship between our lives and biotechnology, as well as its connection to the history of Osaka.

“Bio-city” Osaka since the Edo period

Morishita’s area of study is clinical gene therapy, which is the development of new therapies that mainly utilize gene information for difficult-to-treat diseases. While it may sound like such study has no immediate connection to us ordinary people, Morishita says that biotechnology exists much closer to our daily lives than we imagine. Especially in Osaka, this becomes more evident because of its long history as a pharmaceutical trade center, highlighted by the prosperity of the Doshomachi district.
“Biotechnology has two basic aspects; technology for global use and technology for our daily living,” says Morishita. “When a new drug is developed in one country, it will eventually become available worldwide. In this respect, biotechnology and bioproducts are universal. On the other hand, a number of common things that we find in our daily lives are related to biotechnology. Think about functional food and health food, for example. We just don’t often realize their connection to biotechnology.”
 Morishita also points out that Osaka has been the center of Japan’s pharmaceutical market since the Edo period, mainly in the Doshomachi district. “Reflecting its history, Osaka still holds today a number of headquarters of major pharmaceutical companies, both domestic and international. Nearby Nada (Kobe-shi, Hyogo) and Fushimi (Kyoto-shi), on the other hand, have a long tradition of brewing, which has also contributed to the development of today’s bioindustry in Osaka.”
It is clear that Osaka had established itself as a “bio city” well before the development of suburban academic cities became popular throughout the nation over the last decades. Osaka’s history and accomplishments as a “bio city” have also become highly recognized worldwide.
“The biotechnology industry in Osaka is best characterized by the fact that it has been built on the community’s rich historical assets. In this respect, it is rare to find a city like Osaka in any other part of the world,” says Morishita.


Ryuichi Morishita

Saito Bio Incubator (Ibaraki-shi, Osaka)

Success of Osaka-based bioventures from Osaka

In addition to its historical background, biotechnology in Osaka has become known for the recent success of local bioventures. The ultimate goal of bioresearch is to return the results to society for the benefit of human life and living. To realize this for his research on developing new drugs for difficult-to-treat diseases, Morishita himself founded a university venture and has been serving as its director. The company’s recent successful project is the development of HGF (Hepatocyte Growth Factor) genetic medicine, which will be the world’s first drug for the neogenesis of blood vessels and is expected to effectively treat peripheral arterial diseases that may ultimately lead to necrosis of a lower limb. The project completed its clinical trials in June2007 and is scheduled to be released by the company for sale in approximately two years. While a number of university ventures have been established in Osaka and other areas in the Kansai region, bio-related ventures like Morishita’s account for about 40 percent of the total.
 “Business cooperation is essential to turn our research efforts into actual products,” says Morishita, as he recalls how he came to establish his own business. “We talked to a number of companies but could not find the ones who were interested in helping us. So we decided to make one by ourselves and founded AnGes MG, Inc., in December, 1999.”
Morishita well understands that large-scale businesses are mostly hesitant about getting into innovative projects which may not be profitable enough for them. In addition to commercializing the research results, AnGes MG has been working on the development of medical infrastructure, which may allow the company to import and sell medications, which are not currently available in Japan, for intractable diseases. (To be continued in Vol. 2)

October 18, 2007
Text by Michi Komura, Osaka Brand Center

 Ryuichi Morishita Profile

Ryuichi Morishita, M.D., Ph.D.
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).


■Related links
Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine
AnGes MG, Inc.
Doctors Blog