Building a Virtual Drug Development Laboratory in Japan

In an effort to strengthen Japan’s drug development capabilities, a group of about 20 public, academic, and private organizations are together forming the Kansai Bio-Information Highway Project. The project comprises of an extensive computer-networking endeavor that will allow participants of the project to freely exchange information and research, establishing a “virtual drug development laboratory.” The project aims to utilize the computing capabilities of the network to push forward genome medicine research in Japan.

Some of the participants of the project include: Osaka University, Kobe University, NEC Corporation, Compaq Computer, and Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. Scientists involved in the project will be granted access to the network and will be able to conduct experiments from their own computers and laboratories. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will be funding the project. It is planned to run for 5 years with approximately ¥500 million (US$4.3 million) set aside for this fiscal year.

Japan’s current drug development capabilities are extremely limited when compared to their Western counterparts. This project hopes to spark new innovation through collaboration as well as help raise Japan’s visibility in genome research. Future plans are already underway to expand the Bio-Information Highway to include other major research institutions.