DENSO partners with Euglena Corp. on micro algae R&D

Within a comprehensive alliance for business development of microalgae, both companies will cover 1. Development of biofuels business (“Green Oil Japan”), 2. R&D of micro algae culture technology, 3. Use of algae for foods and cosmetics, and 4. Production of...

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18-11 Green Earth Institute uses Corynebacterium resting cells to prepare green chemicals from formaldehyde

In an artificial metabolic system, the formaldehyde is added via aldolase, to appropriate cosubstrates forming 2,4-dihydroxybutyric acid (DHB), homoserine (hSer), and 1,3-propanediol (PDO). As an aldolase, hpal from Escherichia coli was used. It accepts also other aldehydes. The study is considered a proof of principle that high-cell density cultures of resting cells of C. glutamicum can be used to form valuable compounds from toxic precursors such as formaldehyde or phenol (as shown in earlier work on catechol). Metabolic engineering was not rigorously done, yields were not optimised, and by-products occurred.

Keisuke Yamamoto, 73rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Biotechnology, Japan

Nikkei Biotech, November 18, 2021

18-11 Japan reports progress on transgenic pollen-free cedars

The Forest Research Institute’s Forest Biotechnology Research Center (Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture) reports progress on the development of a pollen-less cedar by genome editing of “seminal trees” which grow fast and straight. In the transgenic plant, a single nucleotide has been deleted by CRISPR/Cas9 in the gene responsible for the outer wall of the pollen, inhibiting the production of mature pollen in male flowers. The genome-edited cedars are crossed with wild-type individuals to remove the foreign genes encoding Cas9 and guide RNA, and the resulting seeds contain no foreign genes. Pollen-free cedars could reduce the frequent pollen allergies in Japan by gradually substituting present cedar trees. The institute plans for regulatory submission in 2026. 

Nikkei Biotech news release, November 18, 2021

© NARO Japan

9-11 NeuroSky and Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma will develop wearable electroencephalographs

The medical device will be used for the prevention and diagnosis of neuropsychiatric diseases such as sleep disorders, depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dementia at an early stage. At the same time, a version for healthcare use by the general public will be developed which is based on the successful product „Nekomimi“ (a manga cat character) which has been sold by NeuroSky over 100.000 times. The headset-type device measures alpha and beta brain waves with an semiconductor sensor placed on the forehead. Noise filtering technology enables stable measurement even in noisy environments. The company has developed an algorithm to infer the level of concentration and relaxation from the quantified brain waves. „Nekomimi“ sells at Amazon Japan for 14,850 Jp¥ (113 €) and can be shipped abroad.

Nikkei Biotech news release, Sept. 9, 2021

© NeuroSky

5-11 NEDO launches R&D program for hydrogen aircrafts

The project aims to increase the ratio of participation in international joint development of airframes and engines (currently about 20-30%) by maximizing the strengths of Japan’s elemental technologies, such as hydrogen and materials. The project will also contribute to the decarbonization of the aviation sector.

Implementation period: FY2021 – FY2030 

Budget: 21.08 billion yen (scale of NEDO support)(~160 million €)

Themes Development of core technologies for hydrogen aircraft (Kawasaki Heavy Industry) 

1.1  Development of engine combustor and system technologies for hydrogen aircraft, 

1.2 Development of liquefied hydrogen fuel storage tanks

1.3 Study of hydrogen aircraft structure for a cruising range of 2,000 to 3,000 km. We aim to achieve a weight reduction of about 30% from existing metal components (about 10% compared to existing composite materials) in key structural components such as main wings, aiming to install them in aircraft to be launched in 2035 or later.

NEDO news release, November 5, 2021


1-11 Genome-edited tiger puffer fish accepted as food in Japan

Regional Fish Co., Kyoto, has received acceptance from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for sales of genome-edited tiger puffer fish. In the genome-edited fish strain, a leptin receptor reducing appetite was removed, leading to growth at double speed and improved feed utilization efficiency. The high-growth tiger puffer is 1.9 times larger on average and 2.4 times larger than wild-type tiger puffer bred for the same period. It is said that it will be in a state of constantly overfeeding, but it will not become obese, and an edible part with the same composition as the wild type individual is obtained.

This is the second product of Regional Fish Co., following edible red sea bream.

Nikkei Biotech news, November 1, 2021

Tiger puffer fish, top: fed for same period after genome-editing. ©Regional Fish Co., Kyoto

26-10 Japan’s „Green Innovation Fund“ launches construction of „zero-emission“ ships and a supply chain for hydrogen and ammonia fuels

NEDO, the project house of METI, will launch a 32 billion JP¥ (242 million €) program on „next generation ships“, which includes the development of engines fueled by hydrogen and ammonia. In the future, „zero-emission ships“ will emit virtually no greenhouse gases in their operation. According to NEDO, international shipping accounts for about 2.1% of global CO2 emissions. Hydrogen- and ammonia-fueled ship engines have not yet been developed worldwide due to technical issues such as improving combustion control technology. Hydrogen and ammonia, which are gaseous at normal temperatures and pressures, larger storage volumes than conventional fuels and the issue of a „methane slip“ in LNG-powered ships. 

The program will include 4 projects:

  • Development of marine hydrogen engines and marine hydrogen fuel tanks
  • Development of ships equipped with domestic ammonia-fueled engines
  • Integrated project of ammonia-fueled ship development and social implementation
  • Development of technology to reduce methane slip from LNG-fueled ships by improving catalysts and engines

The project consortium will comprise

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Yanmar Power Technology, Japan Engine Corporation, Japan Shipyard Corporation, IHI,  ITOCHU Corporation Mitsui E&S Machinery, NS United Shipping Corporation, Hitachi Zosen Corporation

NEDO press release, October 26, 2021

© NEDO.From left: liquid hydrogen carrier, oil tanker and bulk carrier ship based on hydrogen engines

15-10 NEDO adds projects on use of CO2 as raw material

The project house NEDO of the Japanese Ministry of Economy and Trade METI is funding further topics on the use of CO2 as a raw material with a total of about €100 million over 5 years: 1. Synthesis of lower olefins (IHI) and methanol from CO2 (JFE Steel, RITE), 2. Methane from CO2 via large-scale methanation (INPEX), 3. Fixation of CO2 in concrete, cement, carbonates using steel mill slag (JFE Steel, Kobe Steel, Kobelco Eco-Solutions) and in high-value carbon nanomaterials (Mitsubishi Materials).

NEDO news release, October 15, 2021

© Scheme for project 3, © NEDO

18-9 Japan permits marketing of genome-edited fish

In the red sea bream, 14 bases of the myostatin gene suppressing muscle hyperplasia were deleted, using CRISPR/Cas technology. The average amount of the edible portion was increased about 1.2 times, and the ratio of weight gain to ingested feed improved by 14%. Since the bone volume is reduced by about 31%, it is thought that the energy to make bones goes to the muscles. Pertinent research was done at Kinki University and Kyoto University, and commercialization is by Regional Fish, started by crowd-funding. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries confirmed that the fish is not subject to the Cartagena Law, and the the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare confirmed that the fish conform to the Food Sanitation Law. Within a crowdfunding campaign, three types of red sea bream food are presently offered, with prices ranging from 10,000 yen to 15,000 yen for single items and 30,000 yen (77 – 230 €) for a three-item assortment. In addition to red sea bream, Regional Fish Co. plans to develop and market new varieties of marine products such as fish and crustaceans improved by genome editing.

This is the second report of genome-edited foods in Japan, following tomatoes with increased GABA content after deleting a decarboxylase gene, developed and marketed by Sanatech Seed, a startup from the University of Tsukuba.

Nikkei Biotech news release, September 21, 2021

© Regional Fish Co.

7-9 Ministry of Agriculture inks major programs on biotech

Within its biotech-related 74 billion Yen (about 570 million €) budget for FY2022, the ministry aims to strengthen production capacity and improve sustainability of the domestic agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries. Topics include:

  • low-temperature storage systems for tea leaves and late-season tea varieties
  • technologies for early egg collection, artificial seedling cultivation and aquaculture of eel and bluefin tuna,
  • technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production. Development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, including breeding methods to produce low-methane cattle
  • powerful red tide response technology for fish and shellfish farming including red tide-resistant cultured fish
  • technology to cope with damage caused by invasive alien species, including technology using environmental DNA,
  • technology for carbon sink measures in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, e. g., technology for production and utilization of wood lignin-derived plastics
  • green biotechnology industry using silkworm technology 
  • projects to realize food and dietary habits to extend healthy life expectancy
  • crop varieties using genome editing technology

Nikkei Biotech news release, September 7, 2021

27-8 Secure storage of genome analysis data by quantum cryptography

Toshiba and others explore a system to store personal genetic data from projects of the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization (ToMMo) using a combination of quantum cryptography communication technology and secret distribution technology. The consortium has successfully conducted a demonstration experiment to distribute large-scale human genome analysis data to multiple locations for safe backup storage.

Nikkei Biotech news release, August 27, 2021

27-8 Grillus, a startup on edible crickets for human nutrition

Grillus is a startup from the University of Tokushima that produces edible crickets and sells cricket-derived as „circular food“. Basic technology consists of mass production of a highly uniform albino strain of the Dipterocarpus cricket, which has been maintained at the University of Tokushima for generations. The crickets are then dried and grinded providing a highly nutritious powder of about 70% protein and 20% fat. Flavor comes from the aroma produced during the drying process. Presently, the company offers 3 products:

  1. “cricket ramen” made from crickets at a ramen restaurant in Tokyo
  2. “cricket miso ramen” made from crickets and miso at a ramen restaurant in Tokushima Prefecture, and 
  3. “cricket rice crackers” with a shrimp-like flavor produced by MUJI Co.

The company is also considering to develop genome-edited crickets with improved taste, reduced allergens, strains that can be bred at high density, strains with a regulated metabolic system for functional components, and strains with higher nutritional value, e.g., increased content of specific amino acids.

Nikkei Biotech news release, August 27, 2021

© Nikkei Biotech

26-8 Japanese consortium achieves solar hydrogen production on 100 m2 scale

A consortium of ARPChem, Fujifilm, TOTO, Mitsubishi Chemicals and the University of Tokyo, supported by NEDO, has installed and operated, since August 2019, a demonstrator for photocatalytic water splitting and succeeded in separating and recovering high-purity „solar hydrogen“ from the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen generated by water decomposition. The system consists of a photocatalytic panel reactor  connected so that it has a light-receiving area of 100m2 and a gas separation module with a built-in separation membrane. The top of this reactor is made of transparent glass and a strontium titanate photocatalyst sheet. There is a small gap of 0.1 mm between the photocatalyst sheet and the glass through which water is supplied for the reaction. The strontium titanate photocatalyst uses sunlight UV for water splitting, with a quantum yield of almost 100%. It is manufactured by spraying photocatalyst onto the substrate. The gas separation module can maintain stable gas separation by properly controlling the gas flow rate regardless of sunlight conditions, and was operated outdoors for 65 days without losing its functionality. In addition, due to the proper design of the photocatalytic reaction system, there was no spontaneous ignition or explosion during the outdoor test. In a separate project, catalysts and process technologies are being developed to synthesize C2 to C4 olefins from hydrogen produced from this module and carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and factories.

1. NEDO news release, August 28, 2021

2. Nishiyama, H., Yamada, T., Nakabayashi, M. et al. Photocatalytic solar hydrogen production from water on a 100 m2-scale. Nature (2021).

© NEDO Japan

16-8 Promising ventures in Japan: The University Venture Award 2021

Japan’s Science and Technology Agency JST and NEDO, project house of the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry, offer an annual award to startups, financially supported by companies. The 2021 prize was awarded to

  1. Heartseed Co.

Heartseed, a spin-off of Kyoto University, develops cardiac regeneration medicine for severe heart failure, using iPS cells. The company has established a method for mass producing cardiomyocytes from allogenic tissue, supplied by the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application CiRA in Kyoto. A clinical trial for Phase 1/2 study obtained permission in March 2021, and will start later this year. On June 1, 2021 Heartsed announced that it has entered into an exclusive technology collaboration and license agreement with Novo Nordisk of Denmark for its allogenic cardiomyocytes. The reward is supported by Ajinomoto which has optimised the medium to culture the cardiomyocytes.

2. Regional Fish Co. 

The company, a spin-off of Kyoto University, aims to revolutionize Japan’s fisheries industry through the combination of accelerated fish breeding, based on genome editing, and smart, land-based aquaculture. For the latter aspect, it is supported by Ebara Co., a pump company.

3. OriCiro Co. 

The company, supported by Rikkyo University, is focused on DNA synthesis and amplification technology based on amplifying long DNA strands without using cells. Its in vitro complete reconstitution system of genome replication cycles uses purified proteins and is claimed to be the only company in the world that can amplify genome-size long DNA strands as cyclic molecules, e.g., for the use in synthetic biology.

4. Raputya Robotics Co. 

The company, supported by ETH Zurich, develops cloud computing platforms for robots and is based on the vision that within 5 years, 10% of all robots globally will be connected to their control platform. Industrial support is from Monoful Co. which provides robotics solutions and develops a cloud robotics platform.

5. Matrixome Co. 

The company, a spin-off of Osaka University, commercializes and sells laminin E8 fragment proteins, which are useful substrates for cell culture as surface-cultured pluripotent cells of clinical grade can be easily removed from this protein-engineered surface. Industrial support is from Nippi Co., which produces these surface proteins.

6. RTI-cast Co. 

The company is a spin-off of Tohoku University and develops a Tsunami disaster information system that immediately predicts tsunami inundation damage at the time of an earthquake based on supercomputer terrain modelling and crustal movement observation. Industrial partners are Kokusai Kogyo, NEC, and EITO.

15-7 Japan plans for „dramatic expansion of fuel cell technology“

The program supported by METIs project house NEDO looks for an implementation in 2030 and beyond, but has organized another industry-academia consortia to improve fundamental technologies related to SOFC and PEFC fuel cells. It runs from FY2020 – FY2024 (planned), with a FY2021 budget of 6.67 billion yen (50 million €). The targets are

  • 6 projects on separator technologies
  • 7 projects on non-platinum electrocatalysis 
  • 4 projects on improved hydrogen storage
  • new applications of fuel cells in agriculture, coastal vessels, drones etc.

A detailed list of projects and project partners is available.

NEDO news release, July 15, 2021