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University of Tokyo Holds CMSI Symposium

Center for Medical Systems Innovation 3rd Annual Symposium


What brings a hundred graduate students, the Head of the Science & Technology Section for the European Union, science attachés from embassies including the United States’, speakers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and senior industry leaders from Nestlé and MSD Pharmaceuticals together to discuss research, cultural exchange and nascent business plans in biomedical science? The annual symposium of the University of Tokyo’s Global Center of Excellence (COE) Center for Medical Systems Innovation (CMSI), that’s what.

Global COEs are five year programs awarded to top Japanese universities by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Similar to U.S. Program Project Grants (PO1s) and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs), the COEs bring together cross-disciplinary research teams to tackle important problems in public health. At its heart, the CMSI COE, which is based in the Schools of Engineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Medicine, is a graduate exchange program intent on fostering research innovation in the medical field, but with a global perspective.

In 2010 two MD Anderson graduate students traveled to the U of Tokyo while six students visited Houston, TX for the two month summer research program. During the annual symposium, held on February 22, 2011, some of the students reported back not only on their work, but also on the impact that spending a summer abroad has had on their careers and lives. Shinya Hirota, who spent last summer in the lab of MD Anderson Cancer Biology Department’s Assistant Professor Joseph H. McCarty, Ph.D., explained how being in Houston helped him broaden his horizons and interact more easily with various audiences. U of Tokyo faculty work diligently to craft substantive experiences for their exchange students, who themselves exhibit the curiosity and adventurous nature of burgeoning innovators.

Among the symposium’s presentations were interim reports of business plans developed for companies by students working with business and faculty mentors from the three sponsoring schools of the COE. These Case Studies included conceptual startups in imaging, to predict bone fractures in the elderly or find existing fractures, as well as diabetes. While the students present information regarding technology, market size, intellectual property considerations, and competition, a panel of science, government and industry experts question the concept’s viability. This real-world application of scientific ideas enables students to realistically assess how innovation and business function together and will provide invaluable perspective to those moving into industry for their careers.

Ultimately, the CMSI exchange augments the training of well-rounded investigators who have begun to grasp, and work within, the multidisciplinary research of engineering, medicine and pharmaceuticals. In addition, these students travel abroad and recognize the global scope of science, research and business in today’s world. MD Anderson looks forward to the U of Tokyo students who will visit Houston this summer and encourages MD Anderson graduate students to contact GAP if they are interested in applying to the exchange program.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center