The Institute of Medical Science, The University Of Tokyo

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Message from the Dean

Opening comments to the 38th Founding Commemorative Symposium


1. Opening comments and a word on IMSUT in the wake of the earthquake disaster

Thank-you today for attending the Annual Founding Commemorative Symposium. This year's symposium is not simply an opportunity for reflecting on the founding of our forerunner, the Institute for Infectious Disease, in 1892, and its subsequent evolution to our current Institute of Medical Science, and for gazing at and discussing present-day IMSUT and its future; I believe that this year's event has taken on additional meaning.
Through the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck on March 11 of this year, the Tohoku region suffered massive damage and the facilities of our university's Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute in Iwate Prefecture's Ootsuchi Town also received catastrophic damage.
Fortunately IMSUT was spared major damage, allowing us to hold this year's symposium, but IMSUT is supporting affected individuals and local government efforts in diverse ways.
For example, relevant to IMSUT, new activities were launched in the form of the Joint Usage/Research Centers starting from fiscal year 2010, but after the disaster hit, the network of researchers quickly facilitated investigation of the post-disaster circumstances of scientists in the concerned research institutes, and the study "Kyodo kenkyuu (hisai kenkyuusha shien)" was made to support affected scientists in implementing or continuing their research. As of this past April, a call was issued for applications via our IMSUT website, etc.
In addition, through the efforts of IMSUT faculty members, direct disaster area support has been provided at the scene along with Tokyo volunteer participation, a medical support team has been dispatched to the affected area with the cooperation of the University of Tokyo Hospital, an IMSUT team was formed to treat those exposed to radiation, and monthly public citizens' medical get-togethers have been held in which accurate knowledge concerning radiation exposure has been communicated through lectures, with the participants directly immersed in disaster area relief.
In the future as well, as a research institute advancing cutting edge medical science, I think we must continue the ongoing support activities on the one hand while at the same time we have to show the "Spirit of Scientists," which reflects our attitude of facing and challenging the difficulties of new discovery. At a time of such historical national difficulties, I think it is very important for us as citizens or as individuals who have chosen to reside in Japan to take pride, one-by-one, in our Japanese roots or affinities as well as our fields of specialization, and to bring forth our utmost efforts. The special strength of IMSUT lies in our cutting edge research into medical science, and it is by showing our "Spirit of Scientists" that we can best contribute to recovery. From that standpoint as well, today's symposium ranks high in importance as proof of our ability and dedication.

2. Awaiting the 120/45 year anniversaries of the Institute for Infectious Disease/Institute of Medical Science

As you are all well-aware, next year, 2012, will be the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Infectious Disease. Since then Japan has grown into a developed country and its society has diversified, as have the diseases afflicting its citizenry. Thus, in addition it will be 45 years since our institute was reorganized through the great efforts of our wonderful, far-sighted predecessors to contribute toward measures against not only infectious diseases, but also other diseases starting with cancer. In other words, 5 years after that, in 2017, it will be 125 years since the founding of our forerunner institute and 50 years since we reorganized, moving on from the Institute for Infectious Disease. With these two marks as departure points for a new IMSUT in 5 years, I'd like to advance a variety of efforts to grapple with reforming the research and office organization of IMSUT. As an approach and first step toward that, this year's Founding Commemorative Symposium centered around young scientists' presentations of research findings from each laboratory that began yesterday provides a very important compass.

Our Institute's founder, Dr. Shibasaburo Kitazato promulgated the concept of "basic and clinical research that targets practical learning," namely "understanding a disease," "creating disease model(s)," and "developing novel prevention and therapy." With this founding principle imprinted in our Institute’s DNA, we must reaffirm the vision as we gaze "beyond the future" at the next generation and wrestle with how to carry forward with developing our institute and its mission. As a first step in this process, our talented planning committee for this year's Founding Commemorative Symposium has organized the symposium around the theme "The Current Situation and Outlook for Cutting Edge Medicine." The symposium was planned as an opportunity for us to listen to speakers from inside and outside the institute whose research ties together cutting edge work in basic medical science with the development of novel medical care. Despite busy schedules, we received support from both inside and outside the university. Prof. Eisuke Mekada from Osaka University's Research Institute for Microbial Diseases graciously agreed to tell us about his work to develop new cancer therapies using mutant diphtheria toxins to target EGF, a factor involved in cancer cell propagation. His institute is a sibling to ours, and a worthy rival with whom we enjoy an exceptionally close relationship in the fields of infectious disease, immunology and vaccinology. From our university's Graduate Schools of Engineering, we have also invited Prof. Kazunori Kataoka, a leader in medical engineering, to talk about pioneering work bringing together nanobiotechnology and innovative medical diagnosis and therapy. In addition, from within IMSUT itself, selecting from among the internationally active faculty scientists our institute boasts in cancer, infection, immunity, genome science, iPS/regenerative medicine and basic medical sciences, this year Prof. Imai, Prof. Nakauchi and Prof. Nakamura (Yusuke) will introduce their recent findings.
These talks will all be rich in content and deeply interesting, and so I can hardly contain my anticipation. I look forward to lively questions and discussions from everybody who has come to participate in today's symposium, and look forward to a great success with your cooperation. Finally, with the support and understanding of everybody gathered here today, I ask for your active participation in making the activities of this institute a Mecca for cutting edge medical research. This symposium is hereby opened. Thank-you for your attention.