Travels with Andy – Japan

March 12th, 2015 in Biorepository Profile

Below are the Japanese Biobanks which ISBER President 2014-2015 Andy Zaayenga recently visited, along with a short description from each institution sharing a little about the vital service each provides in research, clinical care, or forensics.

National Cancer Center Hospital, Tokyo, Japan

ISBER President Andy Zaayenga (right) meets with Koh Furuta, Division of Clinical Laboratories Head, Japan National Cancer Center Hospital. Koh, a long time member of ISBER and a member of the Publications Committee explains the mission of the National Center below.

The mission of the National Highly-Specialized Medical Research Center (National Center:NC), consisting of six National Centers (6NCs), is to explain and overcome particular diseases that have a significant impact on the national health.

Our staff members strive constantly to provide patients with medical care of the highest level in relation to each disease. In addition, we are working to develop new diagnoses, treatments and preventive techniques, especially for diseases that are difficult to diagnose and treat.

The results obtained from this research have the potential to cure not only people currently suffering from each disease, but also their children and grandchildren: people of future generations.


Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

Dr. Hinori Haga, Professor, Department of Diagnostic Pathology, Kyoto University (not pictured)
Pictured but not in any specific order: Dr. Tatsuaki Tsuruyama, Associate Professor, Center for Anatomical, Pathological and Forensic Medical Research,Kyoto University
Dr. Yuk Yajima, Postdoctoral Fellow, Kyoto University
Ms. Hikari Inoue, Research Associate, Kyoto University
Andy Zaayenga, ISBER President

The Department of Forensic Medicine and Molecular Pathology at Kyoto University has a proud legacy which can be traced back to 1899 when the Department was first founded. Since its establishment, the Department has been an active force in promoting the significance and importance of forensic medicine through innovative programs, educational initiatives, research and analysis and advocacy for better forensic practices, policies and laws.

Human tissues are usually stored as formalin-fixed paraffin- embedded (FFPE) samples in biobanks. However, its application for clinical research use has been limited. Although combining micro-dissection of tissue samples with LC/MS spectrometry has been applied for the analysis of FFPE tissues, there have been few specific protein biomarkers of human diseases. Here, we were successful in identification of biomarkers of acute myocardiac infarction (AMI) using the FFPE archive and frozen blood in our Kyoto University tissue biobank. We also applied this methodology using Electro Spray Ionization (ESI) with LC/MS.


National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center Biobank, Suita, Japan



Included in picture in no particular order:

Dr. Hatsue Ishibashi-Ueda; Director, Department of Pathology and Chair, NCVC Biobank

Dr. Fumiyukim Otsuka; Chief, Bioresource Section, NCVC Biobank

Dr. Hironori Hanada; Researcher, NCVC Biobank

Clinical samples and information are accumulated at biobanks and clinical information databases of the six national research centers in the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center (NCVC) and National Cancer Center (NCC) are core facilities for proteome analysis, performing proteomic analysis of samples from other research centers. For a given sample, four other -omics analyses of genome, epigenome, transcriptome and metabolome are concurrently carried out in other core facilities. The proteomic analysis data is integrated with other -omics data to establish the integrative -omics database, and is used to identify as many candidates for drug targets as possible. Verification and validation of these candidates will also be conducted in the national research centers.

In the NCVC and NCC, the 2D-ICAL (2-Dimensional Image Converted Analysis of Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry) method is mainly applied on samples, followed by precise protein quantitation by the MRM (Multiple reaction monitoring) method. To increase a chance of discovery of drug targets, proteome analysis focusing on the signal transduction and secretory proteins are also conducted in our research institute.


Biobank Japan, Tokyo, Japan


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Andy Zaayenga with Dr. Koichi Matsuda; Associate Professor, Laboratory of Genome Technology, Human Genome Center, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo

The objective of Biobank Japan is to develop new medications and treatments through elucidating the specific causes of diseases and to realize personalized medicine where selections of drugs and treatments can be appropriate and optimized, based on genetic characteristics to avoid their side effects. In the third phase of the program starting in 2013, the goal is to apply the results from the research on side effects of drugs in the healthcare setting to develop treatment and prevention methods.

In the third phase, two research projects are concurrently being conducted in order to further develop the research outcomes from the ten years of the first and second phases. One of them is a follow-up survey with patients to collect information on their health conditions in order to improve the data provided by them in the first and second phases. In the other project, we are collecting additional DNA samples, information on lifestyles, and data from medical records from 100,000 patients suffering from 38 diseases in order to identify genes associated with their susceptibilities to diseases, responsiveness to drugs, and likelihoods of the side effects.


Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization, Sendai, Japan



Included in left photo: Dr. Masayuki Yamamoto, Executive Director, Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization, Dr. Nobuo Fuse, Professor, Chairman, Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization

Pictured right: Dr. Naoko Minegishi, Professor, Department of Biobank Life Science, Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization


Tohoku University Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization was founded to establish an advanced medical system to foster the reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake. The organization will develop a biobank that combines medical and genome information during the process of rebuilding the community medical system and supporting health and welfare in the Tohoku area. The information from the brand-new biobank will create a new medical system, and, based on the findings of its analysis, the organization aims to attract more medical practitioners from all over the country to the area, promote industry-academic partnerships, create employment in related fields, and restore the medical system in Tohoku.

A blueprint for Tohoku University Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization is a ten-year project including three main activities: a biobank combining medical and genome information; an online platform for the coordination of community medical information; and training program designed for a varieties of highly specialized professionals and experts such as researchers of bioinformatics and science communicators. The biobank to be developed will be utilized to analyze the local heredity information so that it can establish an advanced medical system based on genome information with cutting-edge information and communication technology.


 Coming soon: Andy’s visits in Korea and Singapore


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