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24 Oct 2023


Insights from the EU-Japan Biotech & Pharma Partnering Conference 2023

Representatives of RegMed XB and the RegMed XB Pilot Factory recently traveled to Japan to visit several prime regenerative medicine centers such as CIRA in Kyoto and Osaka University and participate in the EU-Japan Biotech & Pharma Partnering Conference 2023 in Osaka and Bio Japan in Yokohama. One of these delegates, Frank Luyten, Medical Scientific Director at RegMed XB and renowned researcher in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative therapies, shared his thoughts on the significance of this visit. Through an enlightening interview, we gain insight into the importance of this international conference, the potential takeaways, and the broader implications for the global community of regenerative medicine professionals.

Which insights have inspired or surprised you the most during this visit to Japan?

The insights that have most inspired and surprised me during this visit to Japan revolve around their overall vision for the regenerative medicine sector. Notably, Japan exhibits a clear commitment with concrete plans and funding from the government to make the transition happen from breakthroughs in Stem Cell Science (Prof. S. Yamanaka, 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine ) to impact in the clinic with the development of Translational Research and Clinical Trial Core Centers. Equally impressive is the creation of a National Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, the Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine, the implementation of a Regenerative Medicine Patient registry, and well-thought-out valorization and commercialization strategies. Japan's unwavering dedication to advancing regenerative medicine from theory to practical application is truly remarkable.

Can you briefly tell us about the most remarkable presentation or session you attended during this conference and why it was so impressive?

One of the most remarkable sessions I attended during this conference was the Osaka presentations on Wednesday morning. These presentations provided a comprehensive insight into the Japanese regenerative medicine ecosystem, its funding mechanisms, and regulatory landscape. The impact of this session was further underscored by the inclusion of case studies, such as the repair of articular cartilage lesions using stem cell (iPS) derived cartilage cells and the development of iPS-derived cardiomyocyte patches. The depth of knowledge shared and the practical applications discussed made this session truly impressive.

Have you gained any new insights that you can apply to your own work or field after attending this conference? If yes, what are they?

Indeed, I've gained valuable insights from attending this conference that I can apply to my own work and the regenerative medicine field. One of the key takeaways is coming from the regulatory system in Japan, particularly in enhancing the path of early clinical development, which is executed effectively in Japan. However, I've also identified important gaps that need to be addressed. Ensuring that early development plans and dossiers seamlessly align with the subsequent stages of product development for the benefit of both patients and the market is an even more crucial aspect, as this appears to be a challenge within the Japanese system.

What do you consider to be some of the biggest challenges that medicine is facing today, and how has this conference contributed to exploring solutions?

Some of the most formidable challenges in the field of medicine today revolve around the burgeoning burden of chronic diseases, particularly in an increasingly aging population. The impact of these ailments extends beyond individual patients, affecting society as a whole. One potential solution lies in disease prevention through the restoration of normal tissue function or the replacement of damaged tissues and organs. This transformative approach has the potential to shift the focus of medical treatments from care to cure, resulting in an enhanced quality of life for patients and reduced healthcare costs for society.

This conference has significantly contributed to the exploration of such solutions. It has provided a platform for the exchange of innovative ideas and the sharing of breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, which plays a pivotal role in addressing the challenges posed by chronic diseases.

What new collaboration opportunities or networks have you discovered during this conference, and how do you think they can contribute to our goal of "from care to cure"?

Japan is a leader in the clinical development of regenerative medicine solutions using iPS cell technologies. Being the first in clinics and in the patient in several applications such as eye, heart, and joint repair paves the way for the rest of the world to learn from it, particularly with respect to safety and tolerability.

Continuous exchange of information with Japanese colleagues seems imperative. Moreover, Japan invests very seriously in enabling technologies, including manufacturing for new cell and gene therapy approaches, and this serves the regenerative medicine community worldwide as we strive for affordable treatments in well-defined patients.

Lastly, what message or insight would you like to share with those who were not present at this conference but are interested in regenerative medicine?

Many frontline projects and applications in the regenerative medicine world are located in Japan. Building bridges with Japanese partners, whether in academia or industry, and maintaining consistent, ongoing communication, however challenging it may be, is crucial for the sector in the upcoming decade.

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