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On to Stage 3! A New Model of Industry-University Collaboration at OU

The origins of OU lie in industrial collaboration

“Osaka University was established through the financial support from the industrial and financial realms in Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, and Osaka City, and above all, strong passion of the local people” began President Shojiro NISHIO. “Osaka is a noteworthy city in that local people developed schools and universities for education and human resource cultivation, although they were originally set up by the government. So, how can the university give back for this kind of local support? This forms our basic principles of industry-university collaboration,” says President Nishio, placing this industry-university collaboration as the origin of OU.

OU has always introduced ground-breaking industry-university collaboration models

Under the concept of “Industry on Campus,” Osaka University has focused on industrialization of technologies they developed. OU has always been a pioneer in creating new models of industry-university collaboration, establishing Joint Research Chairs/Department and Research Alliance Laboratories (during Stage 2).

In 2006, Joint Research Chairs/Departments were established as the highlight of industry-university collaboration at Osaka University. OU provides researchers, facilities, and equipment, while participating corporations provide funding, researchers, and research materials, setting up their corporate manufacturing hubs on campus. This system features flexible and efficient research activities through discussions between the university and corporations.

This system has become established as a model for industry-university collaboration that promises investment effects for corporations, with 50 chairs already established at the university. This advanced industry-university collaboration system in the Joint Research Chairs was diversified and developed into the Research Alliance Laboratories established in 2011. In this system, Osaka University invites research facilities of corporations to campus to facilitate interdisciplinary research with multiple schools and research institutes at OU and involves post-doc researchers and graduate students in research. By doing so, the university can apply research results to industry, improve the quality of research, and cultivate advanced human resources in both corporations and the university. This system also worked well as an epoch-making, “aggressive system” of industry-university collaboration at the time, which was one of the factors that positioned Osaka University as an “innovative university.”

Onward to a brand new stage: “Industry-University Co-Creation”

As shown in achievements in ‘technical consultation and individual joint research’ during Stage 1 and ‘Japan’s first Joint Research Chairs and Research Alliance Laboratories’ as the systematic development of joint research based on seeds from academia during Stage 2, Industry-University Collaboration at Osaka University has achieved superior performance.

And now, OU is moving onward towards Stage 3, in which OU invokes a paradigm shift from “Industry-University Collaboration” to “Industry-University Co-Creation." “People have started to engage in a variety of activities in society and individuals play multilayered roles. As a result, the lines between industry and university have become blurred and universities are required a flexible response."

"From here on out, Osaka University needs to transform into a university of 'Co-creation,' a university that thinks about its aims and challenges with industry and creates new wisdom,” said President Nishio.

Comprehensive collaboration from the stage of basic research

One of the specific approaches of Stage 3, “Comprehensive collaboration from the stage of basic research,” is a co-creation model between organizations, and its structure and scale are gathering attention. But what makes it different than past industry-university collaboration? President Nishio explained, “No restrictions are put on the use of donations, so the use of donations is suitable for basic research. But corporations have trouble explaining their reasons for donations to their shareholders, so universities cannot expect continuous large donations from corporations. In addition, since joint research is required to create results leading to practical use, money tends to be invested primarily in applied research. So investment in basic research is hard to achieve here, too. Thus, in order to engage in basic research with corporations, OU concluded comprehensive agreements with corporations and made a system in which such corporations would be given priority on viewing research results. This system allows for the university to perform research freely without being restricted regarding purpose of use, just like donations, while corporations can eventually create research in the same way as in joint research. This is a new model of industry-university collaboration that has the best parts of donations and joint research.”

Using this system, OU signed comprehensive agreements in advanced immunology research with Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. in 2016 and Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Co. in 2017. The comprehensive agreement with Chugai will see a total of 10 billion yen provided to OU from Chugai over the course of 10 years (1 billion yen/year).

Advantageous for both university and corporation

Comprehensive agreements with corporations bring numerous benefits to universities suffering from a lack of funding for basic research. The funds that Osaka University received from these corporations will be applied primarily to operations of the Immunology Frontier Research Center (IFReC.) This will maintain an academic environment in which researchers can freely focus on basic research of the most advanced immunology based on their own ideas.

These agreements also have benefits for corporations. Researchers at the university are obligated to regularly disclose results of the basic research that they performed using abundant funding from corporations to these corporations, giving them a preferential right to view research results. If corporations find research results with future potential, they can conclude individual joint research agreements quickly to further advance research after consultation. This approach, unlike donations, makes it easier for corporations to explain to shareholders and, as a result, makes it easier for these corporations to provide funding.

Industry-university collaboration in the future

President Nishio demonstrated his determination, saying, “Moving forward, we will continue to propose new models for industry-university co-creation and forcefully promoting it.” He continued, “OU sets openness in its vision. Entrusted by society as a university open to industry and citizens, Osaka University will cultivate individuals who take a lead role in creating innovation and share its achievements with society. To this end, we will reinforce industry-university collaboration as a channel to accept social needs and social reform movements.” With a far-sighted view, Osaka University will continue to change.

Corporate Voices

In the hope that our collaboration leads to seeds of drug discovery

Kunihiro HATTORI
Senior Specialist, Research Division
Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

For Japanese universities, the amount of contribution and period of the contract in our “Comprehensive Collaborative Agreement in Advanced Research”  are not the only eye-catching features.

Under this agreement, the Joint Research Chair of Innovative Drug discovery in Immunology was established at IFReC. We hope synergistic effects of the latest research results at IFReC and Chugai’s unique antibody recycling techniques will lead to seeds of drug discovery.

By using our drug discovery technology, we’d like to have a win-win relationship with Osaka University, i.e., sharing of strategic acquisition and utilization of intellectual property.

Previously, we produced Japan’s first IL-6 (Interleukin-6) antagonists and developed them as world-class strategic products under the instruction of then-Professor Tadamitsu KISHIMOTO. We will strive forward together for the next OU-developed drugs.

• Corporate Information / Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

With its headquarters located in Tokyo, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. specializes in products for medical treatment. As a research and development pharmaceutical corporation listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, this leader in biopharmaceutical products is actively expanding its research and development activity of ethical drugs both inside Japan and overseas as a key member of the Roche Group. Chugai engages in the production of revolutionary medical products to fulfill unmet needs in the area of cancer treatment.

Leading to the creation of ingenious medical products

Toshiki SUDO
Executive Director (Research)
Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

This comprehensive collaboration in immunology between IFReC at OU and Otsuka Pharmaceutical will not only lead to the promotion of drug discovery research at Otsuka, but will also serve as a noteworthy event that expresses a new style of collaboration between academia and industry in Japan. In Otsuka’s history of drug discovery, OU is one of the universities that have close ties with us.

In the past, we have received guidance and support from a number of Osaka University professors in the areas of organic synthesis, medicine, and pharmaceuticals, which led to the development of new drugs from Otsuka. Now, immunology is gathering attention as an important field in drug discovery research. We’d like to continue making efforts to contribute to medical treatment by developing unique drugs through the integration of top level immunology research at IFReC and drug discovery research at Otsuka.

• Corporate Information / Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

As stated in its motto of “Otsuka – people creating new products for better health worldwide,” Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Co. strives to create revolutionary products to contribute to people‘s health worldwide. In the field of the central nervous system (CNS) and oncology, Otsuka pursues unsolved challenges of patients, aiming to create new value as a solution to these challenges.

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