AMED: Mission to empower "a science of uncertainty and an art of probability"
By Makoto Suematsu, MD, PhD
President, Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development
The Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) has been established to serve as an institution dedicated to improving medicine through research and development in Japan. Our goal is to fast-track medical R&D that directly benefits people, not only by extending lifespans, but also by improving quality of life.
Since the latter half of the 20th century, great strides have been made in identifying the causes of many diseases, and medical care has progressed steadily with the development and availability of imaging- and reagent-based diagnostic technologies and groundbreaking new drugs. In recent years, many pathogens have become better understood, and the human genome has been sequenced; such information is being rapidly incorporated into the development of vaccines and therapeutic agents as medical research leaps forward. In addition, expectations are high for the practical application of research aimed at utilizing the regenerative powers of our cells and bodies in medical care and treatment.
Along with these advances in medicine and public health, the global population has increased and societies have aged, with the result that chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure are on the rise. Aging also puts people at greater risk of cancer, dementia and other diseases. Japan needs to provide a practical model for solving these medico-social problems, while at the same time controlling the cost to the national purse of public health and social security.
Moreover, as people now interact on a global scale, endemic infectious diseases like Ebola and dengue fever are becoming global concerns, and measures to address them need to be put in place. There are still people all over the world with diseases that cannot be treated simply because the causes are yet to be clarified, or who are suffering from illnesses that have still not even been identified. We are becoming ever more aware of these facts as information technology advances.
Loss of life is not the only result of disease to affect individuals and society. Disease also disrupts daily life and reduces peoples ability to take part in social activities. According to the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) index, mental and nervous disorders have overtaken cancer and cardiovascular disease in exerting the greatest negative impact on lifestyles. Given our countrys low birth rate and aged population, we have a special duty toward women bearing children, providing them with proper medical care grounded in sound science and evidence-based medicine both before and after they give birth so that their children can be brought up in better health. Medical treatment is the social application of medical research. To improve treatment, research cannot be carried out simply for the sake of research. The results of that research have to be constantly given practical applications.
Against this backdrop, AMED will make every effort to reform the national systems supporting medical R&D. Making full use of the nations fundamental strength in basic medical research, we will accelerate the speed of translational and clinical research, and foster young investigators who are passionate to participate in these activities.
AMED must join forces with people from all walks of life, melding scientific research and other knowledge, in order to succeed in its mission. We must move forward with the firm resolution to never fall behind. Under my leadership, I am determined that the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development will share this spirit and commitment to its goal.
April 1, 2015