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Japan suggests end to public aid for iPS cell stockpiling

  • December 1, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 5:14 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Dec. 1 (Jiji Press)–A Japanese government official has informed Kyoto University that state financial assistance to the stockpiling of induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells may be terminated in fiscal 2020, it was learned Sunday.

The end of support would mark a policy reversal for the government, which has decided to provide at least 110 billion yen to the project over 10 years through fiscal 2022.

Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, the inventor of iPS cells, which can develop into almost any type of tissue, and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012, is calling for continued government assistance.

The science and technology ministry has provided 2.7 billion yen annually to the university’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, or CiRA, headed by Yamanaka. Of the aid, some one billion yen a year has been used for the project to stockpile iPS cells for regenerative medicine.

As making iPS cells from patients’ own cells is time-consuming and costly, CiRA produces iPS cells that are less likely to be rejected after transplants and stockpiles them for supply to universities and companies.

According to informed sources, an official of the Cabinet Secretariat informed Yamanaka around summer of the possibility of the financial aid being scrapped.

Yamanaka protested the policy shift and lobbied lawmakers for continued support, the sources said.

A ruling Liberal Democratic Party panel adopted in November a policy of seeking a gradual cut in related outlays, instead of scrapping them. The Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, calls for maintaining the aid in fiscal 2020 and discussing a new policy for the following year and beyond.

Some experts say iPS cell stockpiling has become less meaningful due to progress in technological innovation in regenerative medicine.

Yamanaka stresses the need for a public project for iPS cell stockpiling. He said he wants the government to make a decision on public support after open and scientific discussions.

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