Beginning on the afternoon of February 26, RIKEN celebrated a special friendship, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of official ties with the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Germany's premier basic research institution.
Formally, the relationship goes back three decades, starting with the signing of an official memorandum of understanding in 1984, but in reality the ties goes back to the origin of the two institutions. RIKEN was established in 1917, six years after the foundation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, MPG's predecessor, which served as the model for RIKEN. Both have served as national institutes of basic science focusing on basic research, and both survived the tumultuous twentieth century to emerge as research powerhouses of the 21st century.
The thirtieth anniversary ceremony was both a celebration of past achievements and a call for future development. Following the initial addresses, a lecture session was held, with President Ryoji Noyori of RIKEN and President Peter Gruss of MPG giving impassioned presentations on the role of research institutions in modern society, and then researchers from the two societies discussing their joint work in the area of systems chemical biology, a fusion of chemistry and systems biology. Hiroyuki Osada from RIKEN talked about the history of cooperation and recent research, while Peter Seeberger of MPG introduced how chemical glycomics—which focuses on the role of sugars in cells—will be used to develop new and safer vaccines.
Appropriately, the ceremony was held at the Industry Club of Japan, an elegant "secession style" building in downtown Tokyo that, like RIKEN, survived through the ups and downs of Japan's industrialization period.
On the following day, the events moved from a focus on the past to one on the future. Researchers from the two institutions moved to the RIKEN Yokohama campus to attend the RIKEN-MPI Joint Workshop on the Forefront of Metabolomics and Future Prospects, hosted by the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS).
At the workshop, the scientists discussed their collaborations and work in the emerging area of metabolomics, which attempts to elucidate biological processes in cells and organisms by examining the chemical “footprints” of metabolites that result from those processes. Presentations were given by five researchers from RIKEN, five scientists from MPG, and two researchers from other research institutions in Europe.
In his closing remarks, CSRS Director Kazuo Shinozaki expressed the hope that the workshop would serve as a platform for increased collaboration between the two institutes in this exciting new field, and that it would serve as a bridge for research collaboration between Japan and Europe.