The Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) has now celebrated the second anniversary of its establishment. Supported by assistance from the Japanese government and encouragement from many individuals, our research activities are making steady progress, and the initial 120 scientific and administrative staff has now grown to about 200.
In 2007, we reported the successful generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) by introducing four genes into human skin cells. Since then, with the collaboration of researchers in Japan and overseas, we have moved rapidly forward with technological development aimed at drug discovery and regenerative medicine (cell transplantation therapy).
In April 2010, when CiRA was established, we set out four goals to be reached within a 10-year timeframe. In the intervening two years, research aimed at the establishment of basic technology has made great strides forward, while the securing of intellectual property has also moved ahead with the acquisition last year of basic technology patents in Europe and the United States. We have thus achieved a large part of the first of our goals.
In the current fiscal year, we are concentrating on our second goal, the generation of iPS cells for use in regenerative medicine. To this end, I myself was appointed in April to the position of director of the Facility for iPS Cell Therapy (FiT), a cell processing center. The task of FiT is to prepare clinical-grade iPS cells that meet the criteria laid down by the Japanese government and to evaluate first whether they are suitable for use in transplantation. When their safety has been confirmed, cells will be passed for actual use in clinical research. Working together with the iPS Cell Therapy Promotion Office, which we set up in February, and with other researchers, we aim to generate iPS cells for use in regenerative medicine.
Regarding our third goal, last year we were joined by a new research team which has provided a major impetus toward its achievement. As for our fourth goal, we have initiated a number of drug discovery projects which are making good progress.
A major issue facing CiRA is that many of our staff members are on limited contracts of between one and five years. In order to achieve all of our goals in the remaining eight years, we need to employ highly skilled staff on a long-term basis. I therefore make a sincere request for your continued support.
Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA),
Goals for the first 10 years
1. Establish basic iPS cell technology and secure intellectual property
2. Create an iPS cell stock for use in regenerative medicine
3. Conduct preclinical and clinical studies
4. Contribute to the development of therapeutic drugs using patient-derived iPS cells