Reporting of FY2023 COI-NEXT Annual Symposium

Reporting of FY2023 COI-NEXT Annual Symposium

OIST COI-NEXT annual symposium was held an on Feb 20th, 2024, for over 150 people, including MEXT, University of Ryukyus, Corundum Systems Biology, Suntory and other external collaborators.

For those who wanted to know how COI-NEXT has been functioning so far, and where it aims to go, the presentation by its Project Leader (Nicholas Luscombe) was most informative. He explained the concept “one world one health”, and described the ten-years vision of the project. He said “the links between healthy mind/body/environment are indivisible”, which indeed illustrated rather well the principles guiding the whole project. Integration is everywhere, between research objects, types of expertise and players of the R&D sector. Every initiative seems to regard achieving a positive impact on society as the ultimate goal.

After recent calls, there are now 18 original research subprojects that involve OIST units together with their external partners, including independent projects for early career researchers. These projects stem from the academic portfolio readily available at OIST.

On the other end, COI-NEXT offers its innovation incubator with a “startup accelerator” to serve Okinawa economic development. It relies on state-of-the-art technology in strongly selected startup projects. In a talk “To and From Industry”, Lauren Ha presented a comprehensive and impressive account of the methodology and progress of the startup accelerator. Out of 69 applicants, four “winning teams” have been chosen after multiple steps including a bootcamp for implementing their ideas and creating new companies.

Nicholas Luscombe did not hide a few challenges awaiting future actions from COI-NEXT: the need for higher level integration of projects (bioconvergence) and for more collaborations with currently under-represented players at the international, non-academic and local levels. In this respect, the very first and fascinating presentation from Fumihiro Haga described University of The Ryukus project “integrated system of agriculture and aquaculture”. The intention to collaborate with COI-NEXT at OIST was clearly expressed.

The meeting was the stage for multiple other presentations about specific initiatives having significant potential societal impact. These included a description by Gail Tripp of how the ADHD condition (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can be dealt with in the society. The last presentation was from Hidehiko Otake, CEO of Corundum Systems Biology. His company proposes a large scale automation analysis of human microbiome using metagenomics correlated with multiple parameters of health conditions. Such an approach may obviously have a considerable impact in a close future.

Finally, for how innovation and Industry-Academia must be addressed at the institutional level, important perspectives were delivered by Karen Markides, and Masayuki Kurihara, OIST President and Corporate Development Director, respectively. Both of them have considerable experience of such activities that they wished to share with the audience.

Author:Mari Bergsvag
Photo:Jeffery Prine





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