Takeda Pharmaceutical and Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research Application (CiRA) said today they have will launch a ¥32 billion (nearly $268.5 million) collaboration to develop clinical applications of induced pluripotent stem cells.

The partners said their Takeda-CiRA Joint Program for iPS Cell Applications (T-CiRA) is expected to make “significant” contributions to the science and application of iPS cell technology into clinical practice, by expediting multiple research projects for drug discovery and cell therapy using iPS cells. During the collaboration’s 10-year timeframe, Takeda and CiRA will jointly run projects led by research experts from CiRA.

Potential initial research projects, according to the partners, will involve the use of iPS cells in areas such as heart failure, diabetes, neuro-psychiatric disorders, and cancer immunotherapy. Additional projects will be launched over time, with the collaboration ramping up to pursue “around 10” projects concurrently.

“This partnership will contribute to the development of new therapies to cure not only major diseases but also rare ones,” said CiRA Director Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that adult somatic cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent cells.

Dr. Yamanaka will direct the joint program—for which Takeda has agreed to provide long-term funding, recommendations on research management, and facilities at its Shonan Research Center in Fujisawa, Japan. In addition to the facilities, Takeda has agreed to provide over the 10-year period funding of 20 billion yen ($167.8 million), plus more than ¥12 billion ($100.7 million) worth of research support, such as facility, equipment, Takeda researchers, and various research services.

About 100 researchers—including new researchers recruited globally—are to be based at Takeda's Shonan Research Center engaged in joint research, with each partner contributing about 50 researchers. Takeda has also agreed to provide access to special research assets, such as its compound libraries.

The collaboration comes more than two weeks after another Japanese corporate giant, Fujifilm, signaled its intent to become a key presence in stem cell development by acquiring the U.S.-based iPS cell developer Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) for $307 million. “We hope to become the world’s No. 1 firm in the field of regenerative medicine,” Fujifilm Chairman Shigetaka Komori declared at a news conference after the deal was announced on March 30, The Japan Times reported.

CiRA and Takeda said their collaboration’s focus on clinical applications for iPS cells, and the national projects to emerge as a result, are in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Japan Revitalization Strategy.”

The Strategy, an economic-development framework, consists of several action plans, including one for reviving Japanese industry that articulates among its six goals: “promote scientific and technological innovations;” a strategic market creation plan that calls for extending the nation’s life expectancy; and a global outreach strategy of attracting global talents, goods, and funds to Japan.

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