Background and recent research
The Central Institute for Experimental Animals (CIEA) was founded in 1952 by my father Tatsuji Nomura, a young medical researcher at the time, who at the time recognized the need for laboratory animals to obtain reproducible data for medical research and drugs. CIEA is a ‘public interest incorporated foundation ‘with the mission developing a stable supply of high quality laboratory animals and conduct research on human diseases and clarify their cause with laboratory animals as live measurement standards.
After graduating from Keio University Medical School, my father Tatsuji Nomura was confronted with the reality that a stable supply of high quality laboratory animals was critical for achieving reproducible results in medical research. This was just after the end of the 2nd World War when there was a dire need for the development of drugs to treat disease and medical ailments in Japan. So he decided to establish CIEA.
The history of CIEA can be divided into two phases. The first 40 years was focused in producing a stable supply of ‘reproducible laboratory animal systems’. We received support and donations from many organizations overseas including the Ford Foundation in the USA.
Based on this infrastructure, the next 20 years was spent developing unique laboratory animal systems that only CIEA could produce.
Examples include the polio mouse that is used to test the safety of live polio vaccines. This mouse is important because vaccine manufacturers must test their vaccines before starting mass production. Historically, monkeys were used for such testing. But there were requests to conduct these tests using mice. So we worked with researchers in Japan and the FDA in the USA to develop a vaccine. We then took this vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO) for further collaborative development. As a result, the polio mouse is now officially certified by WHO as a test animal as part of the WHO world polio eradication program.
It took 20 years to produce this world standard. The time taken to produce one laboratory animal is about the same time it takes to produce a new drug. Almost all world standards are developed in the USA. I want to emphasis that the polio mouse is a world standard that was developed in Japan.
The development of many different types of drugs has extended human life expectancy. The next challenge is to improve the quality of life by conducting research on neuroscience (brain science) to treat ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease. We are developing marmosets for neuroscience research. In 2009 the results of our research on genetically modified marmosets was published in Nature with a photograph of one of our marmosets on the cover. These genetically modified marmosets are critical as animal disease models for developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
Development of NOG MOUSE which does not have immune systems is one of the most significant project for CIEA. It is possible to generate HUMANIZED MOUSE from NOG MOUSE. The HUMANIZED MICE are designed to have human organs or immune systems. These experimental animals allow scientists to conduct their researches with a real in-vivo experiments for human. Our goal is that the HUMANIZED MOUSE will be used for real personalized medicine at hospitals.
The CIEA was the first institute to move to Tonomachi, Kawasaki, before it was named ‘KING SKYFRONT’. The excellent location of KING SKYFRONT, with easy access to Haneda Airport and the possibility of collaborating on medical research has led to an increasing number of institutes and industries moving to this area.
We want maintain our reputation as contributing to world class research. Also, we want to collaborate with international industrial partners on finding commercial applications of our science and technology.
The development of laboratory animals at CIEA is based on what we call our ‘3R principles’. Namely, Replacement of animals with alternative methods; Reduction of the number of animals used; and Refinement of animal experiments stressing minimal pain and distress for the animals.
Specifically, we are working with Professor Okano of Keio University of regenerative medicine to treat spinal injuries. In this research, to avoid killing animals we use a special animal friendly MRI system for analysis of animal brains.
For the last 5 to 6 years we have worked with Kawasaki City to develop this area (KING SKYFORNT) into an international hub for life science research and are trying to establish the district as a show-window for Life Innovations in Japan. This Keihin industrial area of Kawasaki City was home to major blue chips heavy industry companies that were the engine that powered Japan’s economic recovery after the 2nd World War.
Heavy industry has now moved to other parts of Asia and so Japan’s future depends on the development of knowledge and intellectual property based industries. Examples of such industries include life sciences, alternative energy, and environment.
I am confident that CIEA will play a central role in the development of KING SKYFRONT as the world’s hub for basic research and applications in the life sciences.