G-TeC (Global Technology Comparison) was done on the theme of “iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells)”.
G-TeC has the mission to contribute for creating R&D Strategies and/or Science & Technology Policies, by gathering various evidences through surveys. In principle, for gathering evidences, we use three-stepped approaches consisting of basic surveys and site visits.
At the first step, through basic surveys, we investigate trends and movements of “policies & funding” and “institutes & human resources”, both at academia-sides and industry-sides.
At the second step, through site visits, we have meetings with top-class research institutes, funding agencies, and other related organizations in the world, and extract important issues for selected research themes.
Then, at the third step, we evaluate our findings gathered through basic surveys and site visits, and to identify priorities as evidences for creating R&D Strategies and/or Science & Technology Policies.
In this G-TeC, we set two objectives. First, we investigated trends & movements surrounding iPS cells, about their funding and research directions. And second, based on these investigations, we considered promising scenarios for utilizing iPS cells toward life science innovation.
Main results are as follows.
1) The invention of iPS cells has enhanced research activities globally, toward life science innovation.
2) iPS cells promote life science innovation through two promising scenarios. One is “drug discovery”, and another is“ regenerative medicine”.
3) The first scenario is “application to drug discovery”, where iPS cells can work as excellent tools to investigate drug effects and disease models.
4) That is because, in comparison with ES cells (embryonic stem cells), their ethics barrier for utilization is much lower, and capability of cell differentiation is rather higher.
5) This means, by utilizing iPS cells, drug screening at early stages can be achieved. And also, screening accuracy can be highly improved.
6) As the result, it is expected that success rate of drug discovery should be increased dramatically.
7) Therefore, pharmaceutical companies have come to strengthen their research activities about stem cells. Especially, they are interested in wider applicability of patient-derived iPS cells.
8) According to press releases and top journals such as Nature, the following companies have strengthened their research activities about iPS cells.
- GlaxoSmithKlein entered into research collaboration with Harvard Stem Cell Institute in 2008. A major purpose of their collaboration is applying iPS cells to drug discovery, in areas of neuroscience, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, musculoskeletal diseases and obesity.
- Pfizer launched their own group for stem cell research in 2008. A major mission of the group is applying iPS cells to drug discovery.
- Novartis entered into research collaboration with Harvard Stem Cell Institute in 2009. Similar to GlexoSmithKlein, a major purpose of their collaboration is applying iPS cells to drug discovery.
- Roche entered into research collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University in 2009. In this case, a major purpose of their collaboration is applying iPS cells to drug discovery, in areas of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease.
- Besides, AstraZeneca entered into research collaboration with Joslin Diabetes Center in 2010. A major purpose of their collaboration is applying iPS cells to disease model research, in areas of type 2 diabetes.
9) Considering these movements by pharmaceutical companies, it is supported that “application to drug discovery” is promising, where iPS cells can increase success rate of drug discovery and promote life science innovation.
10) The second scenario is“ application to regenerative medicine”, that includes“ tailormade medicine” by patient-derived iPS cells.
11) In 2009, National Institutes of Health (NIH) held the workshop titled with“ Promise of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells”, and discussed about regenerative medicine.
12) At the workshop, potentiality of iPS cells was discussed on numerous applications by NIH and other key organizations, such as Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Massachusetts, University of California San Francisco, Stanford University and Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
13) Among discussions, the following points are extracted as key issues for the second scenario.
- Researches of iPS cells are evolved rapidly, and various application is expected both for drug discovery and regenerative medicine.
- “Application to drug discovery” is realized immediately, from early stages at their research roadmap. iPS cells are useful tools for finding new molecular pathways and/ or identifying small molecules.
- On the other hand, “application to regenerative medicine” is infant. Many advances are requested toward clinical application, including continuous researches about processing and characterization.
- Therefore, over next several years, “pathophysiology of disease at molecular level” and/or “replacement of damaged-cells caused by diseases” are applicable targets in regenerative medicine.
14) Considering above discussions, it is supported that “application to regenerative medicine” is promising. However, in order to realize full-application in this field, fundamental researches are indispensable, especially for processing and characterization of iPS cells.
15) Toward life science innovation by these promising scenarios, supportive environments surrounding iPS cells has been strengthened and expanded.
16) In U.S., as federal government funding, NIH invested to iPS cells 57.5 million dollars in the fiscal year of 2009, and 161.7 million dollars in the fiscal year of 2010.
17) At this survey, corresponding to NIH funding, it was confirmed that 15 institutes at NIH have been engaged in iPS cells, in order to enhance various research fields such as “Heart, Lung and Blood”, “Neurological Disorders and Stroke”, “Mental Health” and“ Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases”.
18) In addition to federal government funding, states governments have also funded iPS cells. At this survey, it was found that State of California has already invested at least 91.9 million dollars through California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
19) Besides, it was also found that New York State has invested 14.8 million dollars at least, and State of Connecticut has invested 3.8 million dollars at least, respectively.
20) In U.K., Medical Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have supported research platforms of iPS cells.
21) At these platforms, various researches of iPS cells have been done, such as basic researches on cell reprogramming and researches on screening and toxicology for drug discovery.
22) As illustrated above, IPS cells have activated industrial concerns with stem cells, and have promoted supportive environments of their researches. Therefore, by utilizing iPS cells, great advancement can be expected toward life science innovation.