Japan-Finland Seminar on Personalized Medicine and Health, Tokyo, Japan, 9th April 2018

UniPID - Finnish University Partnership for International Development / FinCEAL Plus and Business Finland, Japan, organized a high-level research seminar focusing on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Cooperation in Personalized Medicine and Health, in Tokyo, Japan, 9th April 2018 and related visits on 10th April, on the occasion of the visits of Mr. Jari Gustafsson, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland and Ms. Päivi Sillanaukee, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, to Japan. The seminar is supported by Team Finland, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ministry of Education and Culture, Academy of Finland, Embassy of Finland in Japan, as well as other relevant entities from Japan and Finland.

The half day seminar gathered together over 60 experts from academia (including young scientists and experienced researchers), industry (including business developers, innovators and investors) as well as Government representatives and other stakeholders from Japan and Finland to present and discuss about about personalized medicine and health, and biobank related topics

The goal of the seminar was to provide a platform for developing concrete joint research, innovation and business cooperation initiatives.


The seminar welcome speech was given by Mr. Jari Gustafsson, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Finland and Dr. Yasuhiro Suzuki, Vice-Minister for Health, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan


The first keynote was given by Dr. Jamo Wahlfors, Director of Health Research Unit at the Academy of Finland about how personalized medicine and healthcare stem from excellent basic research. In his speech he described, as a whole, the innovation eco systems in health (& medical field) in which the Personalized Medicine is being "honed" into an important part of the healthcare in Finland and elsewhere. According to the Dr. Wahlfors the key focus is on the basic research, without which there would not be any specialized health related business or modern healthcare. He also pointed out that as a whole it is important that all actors work together to enforce the growth strategy in health and underlined that taking care of research resources (e.g. financing and infrastructure) is very important in case one wants to be part of global activities. Finally he pointed out the importance of the international cooperation and with a wish that after this high-level seminar we could establish more joint Personalized Medicine and Health related cooperation projects that benefit both Finland and Japan, both in research and in business.


The second keynote was given by Prof. Yoshinori Murakami, Dean, the Insitute of Medical Science, Division of Molecular Pathology from the University of Tokyo about current challenges of Biobank Japan to accelerate personalized medicine in Japan. In his speech Prof. Murakami discussed about the personalized and precision medicine in Japan, roles of population-based chorot and patient-oriented cohort for personalized prevention and personalized medicine, introduced the BioBank Japan with its research activities and achievements and its research infrastructure, also introduced additional challenges of Instituite of Medical Science, University of Tokyo for personalized medicine, including AI supported medical diagnosis and finally ended with the future of the personalized medicine.


The next keynote about national cooperation in research and innovation – key for the health sector growth in Finland was given by Dr. Päivi Sillanaukee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland and Prof. Jouko Niinimäki, the president of the University of Oulu, Finland. In her talk Dr. Sillanaukee first talked about how government in is backing the access to genomic data and biobanks, and access to digital health data in relation to well-functioning healthcare system and the people. She also stated that health sector growth strategy sets the direction for developing the ecosystem and that Finland aims to be 1)the source and user of versatile and high quality scientific research, inventions and innovations 2)A preferred global partner in public-private collaboration in research and innovation 3)A dynamic operating environment for new companies 4)A reliable partner for the international growth companies 5)An attractive target country for health sector investment and 6)A mode country of sustainable personalized healthcare. She also discussed that health sector growth strategy for research and innovation develops the entire health innovation ecosystem and operating environment with it targets, key action areas, enablers for growth and renewal and the main assets of Finland. She also continued about the primary and secondary use of personal data (vs. health and social data), including the government proposal for an Act related to this and related legislation. Finally she discussed about who benefits from secondary use of health and social data.
In his talk, Prof. Niinimäki showed an example of national cooperation in research and innovation and discussed about OuluHealth Ecosystem and Oulu Digi Health Hub related research, innovation and their collaboration with companies and international partners.


The first session, Personalized Medicine and Health Research was opened by Professor Olli Carpén from the University of Helsinki and the Scientific Director of Helsinki Biobank, Finland and he discussed about Finnish biobanks. Prof. Carpén stated that implementation of precision medicine will not happen without tools to translate novel information into health care and and he also discussed about the special features of hospital biobanks. He also talked about building a Personalized Medicine platform in Finland and Finnish biobank act, and also about FinBioBank – and umbrella of Finnish biobanks. He also introduced the FinnGen project to advance precision medicine.


The next speaker, Prof. Yoshihide Hayashizaki, Director of Preventive Medical Innovation Program from Riken, Japan introduced a point of care testing system in smart medical city to realize a personalized medicine. In his speak he discussed about a new smart medical city in which the health care is based on daily life and medical care in hospital and daily health information in private and in working place and medical hospital records are stored at the same database and the system provides us the instructions and the alerts based on personal medical records and professional knowledge. He introduced different components of this system including the data information center, technological advancements to monitor personal health condition including rapid point of care test (at the bed side) and over the counter (at home) type of systems with smart sensor and ICT based technologies for example detecting infectious diseases and influenza.


The next speaker Prof. Juha Kere from King’s College, London and Karolinska Insitutet, Stockholm, Sweden discussed about what is possible and what is not in personalized medicine and in genomic medicine, and discussed how genomic information predicts disease risks compared to phenotypic information and what is realistic about using this information in public health screening. He also talkd about the future of genomic medicine and criteria for screening methods.


The next speaker Prof. Masayuki Yamamoto from the Tohoku University School of Medicine and the Executive director of Tohoku Medical Megabank, Japan gave a speech about Tohoku Medical Megabank Project concept and progress. Prof. Yamamoto discussed about approach for personalized medicine and healthcare through establishing genome cohorts and an integrated biobank and a related database. Prof. Yamamoto also discussed about an important issue of Missing Heritability toward realization of genome medicine.

After the break the session continued with a speech from Prof. Markus Perola, National Institute for Health and Welfare Finland. He discussed about strategies for evidence-based personalized medicine, how gene studies have developed and the Genome Wide Association Study. He talked about some examples in polygenic risk and genome risk scores and coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Also development of genetic tests for common diseases and direct-to-consumer tests were discussed. Also FinnGen associated project to benefit the participating biobanks in P6 project (P4 Medicine+Population Health+North Karelia 2.0) and P5 (2018) pilot and their aims were introduced, and that these projects were needed for testing the implementation of genomic risk scores, benefitting the biobank volunteers and acting as trial runs for genomic medicine in Finland.


The next speaker, Prof. Kenjiro Kosaki from the Center for Medical Genetetics at Keio University School of Medicine, Japan gave a speech about Japan Initiative on Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases (IRUD). Prof. Kosaki gave a summary of the IRUD initiative and showed some diseases associated to the research such as the new overgrowth syndrome and phenotype expansion associated to it and progressive contracture and acro-oseolysis and their potential treatments. He also introduced a web-based database for phenotypic data sharing.


Prof. Sirpa Jalkanen from the University of Turku, Finland discussed about control of vascular leakage as a target to fight against harmful inflammations. Prof. Jalkanen stated that leukocyte trafficking from the blood stream into the tissue is a fundamental feature of inflammation and when it goes out of control it will be highly harmful and acute lung injury is a deadly disease without cure and is followed by influenza, pneumonia etc. Prof. Jalkanen stated that there is a way to predict who gets the severe form in individuals who cannot upregulate their CD73 ectoenzyme producing adenosine that prevents our vessels from leakage. Prof. Jalkanen and her research group had discovered that the CD73 derived adenosine prevents the disease. This discovery holds true also in "real life" as they have completed Pan-European multicenter phase III study trials for their invention. Also Japanese partners have obtained positive results in their Phase II studies. Prof. Jalkanen concluded that no products in medical/drug development field will be realized without research and long term commitment and also that international collaboration is needed.


The next speaker Prof. Manabu Muto, the Director of the Department of Clinical Oncology at the Kyoto University Hospistal, Japan discussed about biobank and informatics for cancer project in Kyoto University Hospital. Prof. Muto stated that the aim of their Biobanks and Informatics for Cancer (BIC) project is to collect and analysis of sequential clinica data and omics data from human biospecimen from many cancer patients who received medical, surgical and radiation treatment and that they aim this project to contribute on precision cancer medicine. He also stated that the project aimed not for collection only, but they use these information to develop medical breakthrough for the cancer patients. Prof. Muto introduced how they developed a very unique application, named Cyberoncology system than can collect and merge all daily practice data and create a structural database. He also introduced their hospital based biobank system, related sample collecting procedures, drug development related matters and related new business solution of biobank and their one-stop bio-resource project.


Session II, Personalized Medicine and Health –Finnish solutions for research and healthcare introduced some Finnish companies in the field. Mr. Tero Silvola, CEO of BC Platform talked about value and insights from clinical and genomic data and industry collaboration of biobanks and the talked included also the FinnGen project and how their software platform have been utilized there.


The next speaker, Dr. Salla Ruosaari the business leader of Pharmaceutical solutions and Biobanks from Nightingale Health, Finland gave a speech about a blood test to solve the burden of chronic diseases. Dr. Ruosaari discussed about their Nuclear Magnetic Resonance based biomarker platform to transform management of cardiometabolic diseases. They offer research, clinical and industrial appliations from biobank data enrichment to personalized diagnostics and follow-up of treatment efficacy. and their application areas include risk prediction & etiology in Cardiovascular diseases, short-term risk of death from all causes, fatty liver risk, type 2 diabetes in Europeans and Asian and prediabetes biomarkers and also drug development.

Mr. Harri Okkonen, CEO of Quattro Folia gave a speech about their patient centric data driven care model and related application for chronic diseases in case of diabetes. Mr. Okkonen introduced Quattro Folia and stated that they are a Finnish software start-up certified to develop medical devices and that their strategic drivers are augmented clinical intelligence / supervised artifical intelligence enabling better and measurable care results and assisted self-care for indivuals with chronic conditions that are mobile and at consumer volumes and that their model enables clinics to provide better care with less short and long term costs.

Dr. Richard Fagerström, the principal scientist of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland gave a speech about building ecosystems for health data analytics. At first Dr. Fagerström introduced required key assets for creating value from health data such as joint efforts, data and their infrastructure, combined with their priority research areas such as personalized care, automated health data analytics, continuous citizen-centric care, health and social care process development, service automation and the breaktrough targets in Finland. He also discussed about system dynamics and some examples of health related simulations performed at VTT. He ended his speech by talking about precision medicine ecosystem modelling for efficient health data analytics.

Prof. Juhani Knuuti, the director of Turku Pet Centre at the University of Turku, Finland talked about imaging and personalized medicine. In his speech he first discussed about system approach towards diseases and imgaging and different "components" required. He then continued generally describing imaging in medicine as per method sensistivity and specificity. Also molecular imaging of the integrative physiology, combination of biobak data, clinical data pool and image banks, phenotype-genotype analyses using imaging and genetics in coronary artery disease were discussed.

Finally Prof. Koh Furuta from Kanagawa Cancer Center, Yokohama, Japan gave remarks on cooperation opportunities in Biobank Solutions in Japan. Prof. Furuta mentioned some key points in his speech such as 1)Precision Medicine should be available for all 2)Best practices and standardization under conformity assessment and that 3)Standardization could be a cradle for innovation. He also stated the precision medicine seems to be a promising concept and may produce medical inequalities based on individual economic backgrounds and that one solution for such problems could be to set up an opened framework of biorepositories. He also discussed about how standards, best practices, and conformity assessment related and introduced the audience the Council for Industrial use of Biological and Environmental Repositories (CIBER) Japan and Public-Private Partnerships related to it from Industry, Government, Academia and Overseas.

The sessions were followed by a panel discussion where experts from academia and industry discussed about concrete areas of cross-cutting themes for collaboration between Japan and Finland in the scope of cocreating scalable solutions for personalized medicine. The panelists were Prof. Masayuki Yamamoto, Chairman,Tohoku University School of Medicine, and Executive Director, Tohoku Medical Megabank, Japan, Dr. Minna Hendolin, Director, Health and Wellbeing, Business Finland, Finland, Prof. Juhani Knuuti, Director of Turku PET Centre, University of Turku, Finland, and Prof. Koh Furuta, Kanagawa Cancer Center, Yokohama, Japan. The panel was moderated by Mr.Teppo Turkki, Counsellor for Science, Technology and Innovation, Embassy of Finland in Tokyo.

After the panel session the day concluded with a Japan-Finland Evening reception joint networking cocktails hosted by the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo offering a more informal networking opportunities for experts from both regions.


On 10th of April the FinCEAL Plus delegation had an opportunity to participate "Finland Biotechnology Seminar:Finnish lifescience industry landscape and its eco-system”, a seminar organized by Business Finland and the Japan Bioindustry Associaton (JBA). In addition to these two seminars FinCEAL Plus delegates had an opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with Japanese university, research institute and company representatives and to discuss about collaboration possibilities in the field of personalized medicine and health, and biobanking.

UniPID-FinCEAL Plus warmly thanks Business Finland and the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo for co-organizing the event and the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo for the evening reception. Special thanks also goes to Team Finland for their support, and all the speakers, panelists and participants for their active engagement. We hope that the event has managed to create links that enable more cooperation between our countries and regions in the near future.

Download the background paper and the programme of the seminar.

Photos:Petri Artturi Asikainen and Jarkko Mutanen