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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28-5 Japan starts genomic cohort study involving over 360,000 people

Under an initiative of Japan’s Agency for Medical Research and Development AMED, this collaboration among six institutions and five sites will sequence and mutually utilize genomic cohort data of 366,000 people. The project is expected to promote the elucidation of genetic predisposition affecting the onset of diseases in the Japanese population and the construction of risk prediction models. It will also contribute to next-generation medical care, such as personalized medicine, personalized prevention, and risk prediction tailored to each individual’s constitution. 

Outside of Japan, genomic cohort studies involving several hundred thousand to one million people are The Million Veteran Program (MVP), which started in 2021 in the U.S. with more than 820,000 participants, and the UK Biobank, which started in 2006 in the U.K. and targets British more than 500,000 volunteers.

The DNA microarrays used at the six institutions and five sites are the Geponica array developed by ToMMo for the TMM project and the TMC Illuminas array.

Nikkei Biotech news release, May 28, 2021

3-6 NEDO starts million project on innovative storage batteries (2021 – 2025)

In this project, the partners will conduct R&D of fluoride and zinc anode batteries that can achieve both high energy density and safety while using inexpensive materials with fewer resource constraints than lithium-based batteries. NEDO will work with industry, academia, and government to research and develop common basic technologies that cover everything from materials development to battery design, prototyping, characterization, and analysis, with the aim of maintaining and improving the competitiveness of the automobile and storage battery industries by quickly commercializing these batteries for use in electric and plug-in vehicles. The project will be supported by 11 – 12 billion JP¥ (90 million €)(2021-2025).

Contractors are: Kyoto University (representative institution), Tokyo Institute of Technology, Waseda University, Daikin Industries, Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Corporation, Panasonic Corporation, Honda R&D Co. Asahi Kasei, Showa Denko Materials, Nippon Electric, National University Corporation Osaka University, Public University Corporation Osaka, National University Corporation Kanazawa University, National University Corporation Kyushu University, National University Corporation The University of Tokyo, National University Corporation Tohoku University, National University Corporation Tokai National University Organization, National University Corporation Nagoya Institute of Technology, Hyogo Public University Corporation, National University Corporation Mie University, National University Corporation Yamaguchi University, Ritsumeikan Corporation The University of Tokyo, Tokai National University, Nagoya Institute of Technology, Hyogo Prefectural Public Corporation, Mie University, Yamaguchi University, Ritsumeikan University, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, and Fine Ceramics Center.

NEDO news release, June 3, 2021

© NEDO Japan

18-5 Researchers at CiRA develop transform universal iPS cells for allogenic T-cell-based cancer immunotherapy

A research group led by Professor Shin KANEKO at the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, have developed a universal iPS cell in which multiple genes were modified by genome editing, e. g., by knocking out the PVR gene related to the regulation of NK cells, so that it can be transplanted to a wide range of recipients regardless of the genotype of the donor’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA). Next, the research team induced differentiation of this cell type into T cells. A CAR gene targeting CD20 was introduced with a viral vector, and CAR-T therapy was evaluated in a mouse model.

Nikkei Biotech news release, May 18, 2021

30-4 Sanatec starts to distribute free seedlings of genome-edited “Sicilian Rouge High GABA” tomatos

Sanatec Seeds, a venture spin-out of the Japan’s University of Tsukuba, is the first company in the world to commercialize genome-edited tomatoes, “Sicilian Rouge High GABA”

“Sicilian Rouge High GABA” is a strain (variety registration pending) that contains four to five times more gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an antihypertensive, than its parent strain, Sicilian Rouge CF. This is the first generation (F1) hybrid created by crossing Sicilian Rouge CF with the genome edited breeding tomato line #87-17 with modified function of the tomato’s inheritant glutamate decarboxylase.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has ruled that this tomato does not fall under the category of “genetically modified organisms” under the Cartagena Act and can be distributed to customers.

Accordingly, the marketing concept of Sanatec is in Phase 1 is to distribute seedlings, soil conditioners (microorganisms), and fertilizers to home gardeners, and in Phase 2 is to actually begin paid marketing.

©Sanatec Seeds Co.

31-3 Will artificial intelligence help us to healthier intestinal microbiomes?

AuB, a Tokyo startup whose president Keita Suzuki is a former member of Japan’s national soccer team, has analyzed the stool of over 700 athletes and analyzed the type, number and composition of their intestinal bacteria, combined with information on eating habits and weight gains. As a result, a new species of Bifidobacterium longum was found to prevail in those athletes  who easily gained muscles and did not gain weight, even though they ate rich meals, Equipment maker Kyocera, which sponsors the soccer club Kyoto Sanga F.C.  has now teamed up with AuB to develop a toilet-based gas sensor by which stool data of 29 players of the club will be related to their intestinal microbiomes. Using AI, it is expected to correlate odor to the composition of the microbiome and draw conclusions on the management of health and physical performance,


14-4 RIKEN-industry consortium tailors E. coli by synthetic biology to produce 1,3-butadiene from glucose

The team of Yutaro MORI at RIKEN, in collaboration with Yokohama Rubber and ZEON Co., has developed a technology to produce 1,3-butadiene from glucose by recombinant Escherichia coli. Butadiene is currently produced at 12 million t/y worldwide and over 1 million t/y in Japan from petrochemical resources. The recombinant Escherichia coli strain used in this process was bred by synthetic biology technology involving four gene deletions, five gene amplifications and introduction of four foreign genes. In addition to conventional genetic engineering, CRISPR/Cas9, was also used. Using DO–stat fed-batch fermentation, 2.13 ± 0.17 g L−1 1,3-butadiene was produced. 

Y. Mori et al., Nature Communications,


2-12 Kyoto’s RITE: 500fold increase of catechol production by synthetic biology

The Research Institute for Innovative Technologies for the Earth (RITE) in Kansai Science City near Kyoto claims to have achieved a breakthrough in the microbial production of catechol, financially supported by METI’s project house NEDO within the “smart cell” program. In RITE’s and NEDO’s press releases, details to the process are missing except that a modified strain of Corynebacterium glutamicum is used as production strain and multiple basic technologies were used to improve production gradually. The metabolic sketch in the graph may provide some conceptional ideas to specialists in metabolic engineering.

RITE news release, December 2, 2020

NEDO news release, December 2, 2020

© RITE, Kyoto

7-12 NIKON and Tsukuba University analyze physiological state of microorganisms through autofluorescence signatures

Nikon has developed a confocal laser scanning microscope system which allows to analyze the physiological state of cells at high speed in a quantitative manner. The CRIF method (for Confocal Reflection microscopy-assisted single-cell Innate Fluorescence) acquires cell position and morphology by reflection microscopy and autofluorescence signals, which are reconstructed for each cell into a fingerprint.

The figure below shows the change in signatures for Pseudomons putida and Polymyxa during the log and stationary phase: “Average autofluorescence signatures of P.putida and P.polymyxa at each growth stage (top row), classification of cells in logarithmic growth phase and stationary phase by neural network (bottom row) Red: P.putida, Blue: P.polymyxa”

Nikon news release, December 7, 2020

NEDO news release, December 7, 2020

17-2 Shimadzu developed technology to analyze cell metabolites at high speed and with high accuracy

In collaboration with Kobe University and with support of NEDO, the project house of METI, Shimadzu has developed a “Biotransformer Extraction Total System” that can analyze 186 types of water-soluble cell metabolites at once, and a “Metabolome High-throughput evaluation system” that can find promising smart cell candidate cells in as little as one day. By using these systems to acquire enormous amounts of cell characteristics at high speed with high accuracy and design more appropriate metabolic pathways, it is claimed that smart cell candidate cells can be obtained with 20 times higher selection efficiency.

NEDO news release, February 17, 2021Shimadzu press release, February 17, 2021

© Shimadzu Corporation

17-2 Kobe University installs „smart cell” pilot lab

In this pilot lab, supported by funds from NEDO; smart cells can be developed in less than one-fifth of the conventional time by combining proprietary long-chain DNA synthesis technology, high-throughput recombination technology, and high-speed, high-precision cell metabolite measurement technology. By using these systems to acquire enormous amounts of cell characteristics at high speed with high accuracy and design more appropriate metabolic pathways, smart cell candidate cells can be obtained with 20 times higher selection efficiency than before. You can. Since the development of smart cells, which took a long time, can be overwhelmingly shortened, mass production of highly functional substances becomes possible.

NEDO news release, February 17, 2021

© Kobe University, NEDO

18-2 Hokkaido Mitsui Chemicals produces taxan intermediate by plant-cell culture in 800 l bag reactor

Using undifferentiated plant cells from the Yew tree (Genera taxus), Hokkaido Mitsui Chemicals has developed an 800 L single-use bag reactor for their cultivation. In order to prevent the slowly propagating cells from settling down, a special tube was installed at the bottom leading to circulated water flow without using an agitator. Cultured yew cells proliferation was equivalent to that in flasks and eliminated the need for a control unit for the agitator blades. As a result, the cost of equipment was reduced to about one tenth of that of a stainless steel culture tank. The project was supported by NEDO, the project house of METI. The setup is used to produce 10 deacetylbaccatin III, an intermediate for the synthesis of taxane, an anticancer drug.

Mistsui Chemicals news release, February 18, 2021

NEDO news release, February 18, 2021

10 deacetyl baccatin III
© Hokkaido Mitsui Chemicals

25-2 Asahi Kasei Pharma achieves high-yield production of diagnostic enzyme cholesterol esterase using “smart cell” concepts

The enzyme, used for diagnostic assays of cholesterol in blood, is produced by Burkholderia stabilis from which it is secreted. By combining a novel constitutive promoter and functional modification of the host using genomic and expression control information, the company succeeded in constructing a Burkholderia stabilis smart cell with a cholesterol esterase production capacity more than 30 times higher than that of the wild-type strain. The project was supported by METI’s project house NEDO under the “smart cell programme”.

NEDO news release, February 25, 2021

Asahi Kasei news release, February 25, 2021

Two Japanese groups challenge China’s licorice (glycyrrhizin) monopoly

Licorice root containing glycyrrhizin is the most prescribed crude drug in Chinese medicine, included in about 70% of Chinese herbs. It is also used in Kanpo, Japan’s equivalent of TCM. Glycyrrhizin extracted from licorice is 150 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, used as a sweetener and as a remedy to reinforce liver function. In addition, glycyrrhetinic acid, which is obtained by hydrolyzing the sugar chain of glycyrrhizin, is used in anti-inflammatory drugs, cosmetics, and toiletries.

In 2019, over 1000 t of licorice was imported from China to Japan at rising prices, recently 4,287 yen per kilogram (~35 €).

Recently, two Japanese group are engaged to find alternative sources for this valuable compound.

In 2013, Oji, a papermaker, established a Medical Plant Research Institute and started research analyzing the gene expression of licorice under various cultivation conditions. With a new cultivation technique, glycyrrhizic acid content was increased within a short period of 1.5 years from sowing to harvest, and demonstrated in a Hokkaido farm. Next, mechanization technology required for a ha-scale cultivation of licorice (ha scale) was established on two test farms in ​​Hokkaido. In the fall of 2020, Oji Holdings announced that licorice roots could be harvested in the t scale (dry weight).

A second approach by Toshiya MURANAKA and colleagues of Osaka University and RIKEN is based on synthetic biology, using S. cerevisiae. They cloned the CSyGT gene encoding a glucuronosyltransferase from the licorice plant, and expressed it with six other genes into yeast, enabling it to produce about 0.5 mg/L glycyrrhizin from glucose after 5 days of incubation.

Nikkei Biotech news, January 27, 2021, Nature, November 16, 2020.

Japanese Noster Co. commercializes functional fatty acid which suppresses postprandial glucose levels

The product, 10-hydroxy-cis-12-octadecenoic acid (HYA®), had originally been detected as a metabolite of dietary lipids and fatty acids by intestinal bacteria by the group of Jun OGAWA at Kyoto University. Further research at Nitto Pharmaceutical Co. had shown that this fatty acid inhibits the rise of postprandial blood glucose levels. A process has been developed by Noster Co., a subsidiary of Nitto Co., and supported by NEDO, producing HYA®-50 by reacting naturally occurring vegetable oil with lactic acid bacteria at high density, thus reducing the environmental impact of the production process and positioning HYA®-50 as a “green bioproduct”.

NEDO news release, January 19, 2021

Kawasaki Heavy Industries launches first liquid hydrogen carrier tanker

The Japanese CO2 Free Hydrogen Supply Chain Promotion Organization HySTRA (Members: Iwatani Corporation, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Shell Japan Corporation, Power Supply Development Corportion) has launched the first liquefied hydrogen carrier ship. It will transport liquefied hydrogen cooled to minus 253 ° C, leading to a volume of 1/800 of the gas at ambient temperature, safely and in large quantities over long distances. The liquefied hydrogen tank has a vacuum insulated double-shell structure with a holding volume of approximately 1,250 m3 and is scheduled to be completed in autumn 2020. After completion, the ship will transport liquefied hydrogen produced in Australia to Japan. Total length is 116 m, width 19 m, depth 4.5 m at full load, gross tonnage 8,000 t. Propulsion is by Diesel engine electric power generation, and voyage speed  is 13 knots.

NEDO news release, December 11, 2019

© NEDO Japan