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Japanese Government Launches Massive Toxicogenomic Research Project

TOKYO, April 12 - Japan's National Institute of Health Sciences today ended a month-long application period that invited pharmaceutical companies to join a novel government-business-academia toxicogenomic-research collaboration.


Over the next five years, the Toxicogenomics Project, centered at the NIHS, will study 150 drug or drug-like compounds in in vivo and in vitro experiments in rat livers and kidneys, as well as in rat and human cell cultures.

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor will fund the collaboration through five ¥650 million, or roughly $5 million, annual infusions. Additionally, pharma companies wishing to participate will be required either to contribute ¥30 million per year or to contribute personnel or work in kind.

Media reports show that at least 10 pharmaceutical companies have already applied to participate, including Kyowa Hakko Kogyo, Fujisawa Pharmaceutical, and Eisai, Japan's three largest pharma firms. NIHS officials refused to name participants or to disclose their number.

An NIHS scientist explained that the collaborative research, which will focus on reverse toxicology, hopes to identify patterns of biological reaction rather than pinpoint a handful of active genes.


Researchers will use a refined Affymetrix GeneChip to generate a mass of gene-expression profile data and create a database that participating companies will use for early stage drug safety checks. NIHS will begin accepting applications from informatics companies in May.


Data are set to become publicly accessible sometime in 2010, or three years after the project ends.