The Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars Program is a U.S.-Japan exchange that brings eight young researchers from Japan’s pharmaceutical and development field to the United States each year to learn about U.S. healthcare policy, pharmaceutical research, regulatory practices, and translational research.
Participants are selected from Japanese national institutes and private university or university-affiliated institutions. During each two-week program, the researchers meet with senior experts in major pharmaceutical research programs, including managers of pharmaceutical research programs and translational research in U.S. government agencies, as well as experts from universities, pharmaceutical companies, and the policy community. Through these meetings the researchers learn how government agencies, universities and pharmaceutical companies collaborate in order to bring laboratory discoveries to the market. The program helps researchers broaden their view and understanding of U.S. healthcare policy, regulation, and pharmaceutical research and development as well as gain first-hand insights into how the U.S. eco-system functions to promote translational research.
In the third and most recent exchange, participants traveled to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Boston in September 2015. In Washington they met with policy and regulatory affairs experts from pharmaceutical companies, the Brookings Institution, and the U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee. They also visited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and participated in meetings and a lab tour at the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. In Philadelphia they visited the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutic. In Boston their visits included the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, Harvard Catalyst/The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and the Broad Institute. The researchers also met with experts in major pharmaceutical research and development programs.
On the last day of the September 2015 exchange, the researchers gathered in Boston for a wrap-up session to discuss points they thought were important for Japan. They wrote the points on sticky notes, prioritized them, and selected がんばれ日本！(Go for it, Japan!) as the point that summarizes their conclusion that there are many things Japan must do to better the current situation to promote translational research. Their message is intended to encourage Japanese academic researchers, institutions, the Japanese government and others to go forward with this shared mission.
Upon their return to Japan, participants are expected to share what they learned during the program with their Japanese colleagues, to utilize the experience in their work, and to contribute to Japan’s R&D policy reforms and medical innovation in a practical way.
The Mansfield Foundation launched the Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars Program in 2013. The program is sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and is a component of PhRMA’s “Young Scientist Program.”
The Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars Program offers young Japanese researchers and their U.S. counterparts unique opportunities to share “best practices” and to engage in information exchange that can contribute to research, regulatory, and health policies that promote innovation. Highlights of the program include:
Contributing to the Young Scientists Symposium
In 2015, program alumni participated in the Young Scientists Symposium in Tokyo. Each year, Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars served as facilitators for symposium workshops, leading discussions with participants from academia, the pharmaceutical industry, and government agencies on how to overcome challenges and promote collaboration within the science community to advance pharmaceutical development and medical innovation in Japan.
The Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars Program is building a network of U.S. and Japanese researchers in the pharmaceutical field. Regular meetings for alumni researchers help strengthen these networks. For example:
- In November 2015 alumni met in Tokyo with Dr. Christopher Austin (Director, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health) in Tokyo. The researchers heard from Dr. Austin about NCATS’ mission and the scientific initiatives NCATS is leading as a promoter and catalyzer of translational science. Following his remarks, Dr. Austin and the researcher scholars exchanged views on issues including the challenges Japan and the U.S. are facing in the area of translational research. As the lead agency for translational science in the U.S., a visit to NCATS has been included in the Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholars’ two-week U.S. study tour since the program was launched in 2013.
- In September 2015 alumni and new Research Scholars met with Dr. G. Sitta Sittampalam, Senior Advisor on Science & Technology to the Director, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health. The meeting, organized by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), gave the Research Scholars an opportunity to learn from Dr. Sittampalam and to exchange opinions on a wide range of issues relating to drug discovery and development in academia as well as the promotion of translational research in the U.S. and Japan.
- In November 2014 and February 2015 the researchers met with representatives of PhRMA and the research and development heads of PhRMA member companies in Japan to share their observations.
Utilizing Program Information and Networks
Participants in the Mansfield-PhRMA Research Scholar Program are applying the experience to make changes in their research, their institutions, and more broadly. For example, Masahisa Katsuno of Nagoya University reported:
- “I did several things after coming back from [the] U.S….I…introduced the education system used in the U.S….to the National University Meeting on Clinical Research. Now the Meeting is adopting the U.S. educational system to create the common syllabus which will be used in all the national universities in Japan. Inspired by the talks I heard in the U.S., I started two novel collaboration studies with pharmaceuticals and ventures.”
- “The program deepened our knowledge, evoked our new ideas, widened our human connections, and changed our vision for translational medicine. So I sincerely hope that this program continues, and improves the ecosystem of translational research not only in Japan but also worldwide.”
- Makiko Kusama of the University of Tokyo, reported the program encouraged her to request a secondment to the new Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED). Establishment of AMED, modeled after the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is among initiatives Abe administration is implementing to realize sustainable economic growth. Dr. Kusama said she was:“encouraged by this Mansfield-PhRMA program and an ACTTION meeting [public-private partnership with the FDA], which convinced me that the demand for TR [translational research] would increase in Japan.”