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January 11, 2013

Prime Minister Abe visits K computer and Kobe Institute

On January 11, 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid a visit to RIKEN's Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) and Kobe Institute. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kazuyoshi Akaba, and Cabinet Office Senior Vice Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura accompanied the prime minister.

At AICS the prime minister received a general explanation about RIKEN from President Ryoji Noyori, after which AICS Institute Director Kimihiko Hirao made a presentation on the K supercomputer. In answer to the prime minister's question, it was explained that the K computer is also being actively used for industrial applications. After viewing the supercomputer from the visitor's hall, views were exchanged on the importance of acquiring the human resources necessary for developing advanced technologies.

Moving on to the Kobe Institute, Director Masatoshi Takeichi spoke on projects currently pursued by the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB). "Our basic research in the area of developmental biology is providing a foundation for research in regenerative medicine and drug discovery," Director Takeichi explained, and asked for a well-balanced system of support for both basic and applied research. Then Director Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) gave an explanation on the activities of CiRA and the possibilities of developing therapeutic drugs from iPS cells.

The entourage visited one of CDB's advanced laboratories with Group Director Yoshiki Sasai giving a general explanation of the research and the facilities at the lab. Project Leader Masayo Takahashi then described her research, which will involve the world's first retinal transplant using iPS cells for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Prime Minister Abe viewed optic cups formed from ES cells and retinal pigment epithelial cells generated from iPS cells, and asked about measures being taking for the implementation of the research, expressing a strong interest in innovative medical technologies.

Prime Minister Abe, next to President Noyori of RIKEN, listens to an explanation on the K supercomputer from AISC Director Hirao.

Prime Minister Abe, next to CiRA Director Yamanaka, receives an explanation on regenerative medicine from Group Director Sasai.