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University of Tokyo's Center for Medical Systems Innovation Holds 3rd Annual Symposium

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What brings together 100 graduate students, head of the Science and Technology Section for the European Union, science attachés from embassies including the United States', speakers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and senior industry leaders from Nestlé and MSD Pharmaceuticals to discuss research, cultural exchange and nascent business plans in biomedical science? The annual symposium of the University of Tokyo's Global Center of Excellence (COE) Center for Medical Systems Innovation (CMSI), that's what.

Global COEs are five-year programs awarded to top Japanese universities by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Similar to U.S. Program Project Grants (PO1s) and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs), the COEs bring together cross-disciplinary research teams to tackle important problems in public health.

At its heart, the CMSI COE, which is based in the Schools of Engineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Medicine, is a graduate exchange program intent on fostering research innovation in the medical field, but with a global perspective.

In 2010, two MD Anderson graduate students traveled to the University of Tokyo, while six students visited Houston for the two-month summer research program. During the annual symposium, held Feb. 22, some of the students reported not only on their work but also on the impact that spending a summer abroad has had on their careers and lives.

Shinya Hirota, who spent last summer in the lab of Assistant Professor Joseph H. McCarty, Ph.D., in MD Anderson's Department of Cancer Biology, explained how being in Houston helped him broaden his horizons and interact more easily with various audiences.

University of Tokyo faculty work diligently to craft substantive experiences for their exchange students, who themselves exhibit the curiosity and adventurous nature of burgeoning innovators.

Among the symposium's presentations were interim reports of business plans developed for companies by students working with business and faculty mentors from the three sponsoring schools of the COE. These case studies included conceptual start-ups in imaging, to predict bone fractures in the elderly or find existing fractures, as well as diabetes.

While the students present information regarding technology, market size, intellectual property considerations and competition, a panel of science, government and industry experts question the concept's viability. This real-world application of scientific ideas enables students to realistically assess how innovation and business function together and provides invaluable perspective to those moving into industry for their careers.

Ultimately, the CMSI exchange augments the training of well-rounded investigators who have begun to grasp, and work within, the multidisciplinary research of engineering, medicine and pharmaceuticals. In addition, these students travel abroad and recognize the global scope of science, research and business in today's world.

MD Anderson looks forward to the University of Tokyo students who will visit Houston this summer. MD Anderson graduate students are encouraged to contact Global Academic Programs if they are interested in applying to the exchange program.

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