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UK and Japan forge agreement for systems biology cooperation

17 September 2008

The leading science funding bodies in systems biology in the UK and Japan have signed a new agreement this week to boost cooperation and to increase links between their respective research communities. The Interim Chief Executive of the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Executive Director of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) signed a Memorandum of Understanding at a ceremony at BBSRC’s offices in Swindon yesterday afternoon.

The memorandum is the first time that BBSRC and a Japanese agency have agreed to jointly fund a programme.

BBSRC and JST have agreed to align their individual schemes that promote partnering and exchange of researchers between the two countries. The new UK-Japan programme will focus on building links between the systems biology research bases in both countries. Both countries are amongst the world leaders in the rapidly growing field of systems biology. Systems biology is a new approach to bioscience that combines theory, computer modelling and experiments. It is revolutionising how bioscientists think and work, and will make the outputs of their work more useful, and easier to use in industry and policymaking. Instead of using the traditional biological approach of observation and experiment, systems biology uses computer simulations and modelling to process results, design new experiments and generate predictive solutions.

BBSRC alone has invested over £80M in different systems biology programmes, in the UK, in the last four years.

The agreement follows a successful joint BBSRC-JST workshop on systems biology in Tokyo earlier this year. The outcome of the workshop, which included a BBSRC delegation of top UK systems biologists, was a declaration that the UK and Japan should work together to tackle the challenges that systems biology will present us with in the future.

Steve Visscher, Interim Chief Executive, signed the memorandum for BBSRC. He said: "Systems biology is at the core of BBSRC’s ten-year vision for UK bioscience research. I am very pleased to have signed this memorandum of understanding with the JST and I hope that it may lead to cooperation in other bioscience areas in the future."

Mr Fumiaki Takahashi, Executive Director, signed the memorandum for the JST. He said: "As leaders in the field of biosciences, especially systems biology, I am delighted and looking forward to aligning our two programmes to strengthen collaborative activity between our two countries in this important area."



Click on the thumbnails to view and download full-size images.

These images are protected by copyright law and may be used with acknowledgement of BBSRC.

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Mr Fumiaki Takahashi (left), Executive Director of JST, and Steve Visscher, BBSRC Interim Chief Executive sign the Memorandum of Understanding (2.50MB)
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Mr Fumiaki Takahashi (left), Executive Director of JST, and Steve Visscher, BBSRC Interim Chief Executive shake hands following signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (2.32MB)
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Mr Fumiaki Takahashi (front left), Executive Director of JST, and Steve Visscher (front right), BBSRC Interim Chief Executive are joined by colleagues from JST and BBSRC at the signing at BBSRC's Swindon offices (2.41MB)

Notes to editors

The two schemes that the agreement will now see aligned are BBSRC’s Japan Partnering Awards and JST’s Strategic International Cooperative Programme.

The Japan Partnering Awards is a scheme designed to enable access for BBSRC-supported scientists to the rapidly developing research base in Japan and to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities collaborative activity represents.

The JST Strategic International Cooperative Programme promotes international exchanges between researchers on specific research areas, in line with the agreements made with each counterpart country. Activities include cooperative research on a relatively small-scale, researcher exchanges, and holding meetings such as symposiums and seminars.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £420M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

About JST

JST aims to establish Japan as a nation built on the creativity of science and technology, and functions as a core organisation for implementing Japan's science and technology policy in line with the objectives of the Science and Technology Basic Plan.

JST’s mission is to promote the creation of knowledge, return the benefits of research to society, the establishment of infrastructure in an integrated manner, and the generation of innovation. Underpinning this, JST provides scientific and technical information, increases the understanding of science and technology, and promotes strategic international activities.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

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