The World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) is a 10-year research program, launched in 2007 by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in a drive to build globally visible research centers in Japan. Among the currently running 9 WPI research centers, 3 WPI "focus" centers selected in 2012, including the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) in Nagoya University, underwent an interim (mid-term) evaluation in 2016, 4 years since their launch. As a result of the evaluation, ITbM received a score of "S", the highest possible score. ITbM is the second WPI center to receive this score, following the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli-IPMU), which received "S" for their interim evaluation that was conducted 5 years ago.
ITbM's Director, Kenichiro Itami and the President of Nagoya University, Seiichi Matsuo, comment on ITbM's interim evaluation result.
Comment by Dr. Kenichiro Itami (Director of ITbM, Nagoya University)
It gives me great pleasure to know that ITbM was able to receive the highest score for the WPI interim evaluation. My appreciation and gratitude goes to all members of ITbM and Nagoya University, as well as the family members and all the people who supported ITbM.
ITbM is a research institute that we established 4 years ago to "solve complex issues with molecules" and to "open a new research field", with my colleagues who I truly respect and trust. The making of a novel research center that combines synthetic chemistry, plant/animal science and theoretical science, was a wonderful opportunity to grant our desire "to become unique". Since ITbM's establishment, researchers from around the world came to share ITbM's spirit, and ITbM has grown into a research institute with high global recognition in the field of chemistry and biology.
Although we have been aiming to develop innovative molecules to solve global issues, such as food production, I have always prioritized the feeling of excitement ("wakuwaku" in Japanese). In addition, the establishment of a new style of interdisciplinary research by building "Mix Labs", where researchers and students from different research fields share the same space and have discussions on a daily basis, has led to the successful integration of research fields, which was more than I initially expected. This mixing has resulted in the generation of a remarkable number of innovative research outcomes based around ITbM's 3 main research fields: "plant chemical biology (development of molecules to understand and control plants)", "chemical chronobiology (development of molecules to control the biological clock), and "chemistry-enabled live imaging (development of innovative bioimaging molecules and techniques).
ITbM's success has been supported by the dedication and effort of ITbM's supporting members, who work with a hospitable spirit ("omotenashi" in Japanese). The 4 supporting centers at ITbM have strongly supported the collaborative research projects mainly carried out by the Principal Investigator's groups, and have raised the level of research. In addition, the Research Promotion Division has productively linked the research seeds from different groups and has catalyzed the collaboration of over 60 projects. The group has also performed effective outreach of ITbM and is the core for what makes ITbM as it is now. The Strategic Planning Division supports ITbM's research from the initial stage to patent filing, journal publication, as well as social implementation, and is crucial for the future of ITbM. ITbM's administration coordinates ITbM's organization, corresponds in both Japanese and English, works to solve many of the issues that arise at ITbM, and is the engine of ITbM. In addition, specialized staff support the daily life of overseas researchers, so that they can adjust in Japan and concentrate fully on their research. I am truly dedicated to the supporting staff of ITbM.
ITbM is still at its infancy. We are encountering many exciting research results, but the best is yet to come. We hope we can make the next stage a spectacular one, by always keeping our initial enthusiasm and enjoy our research from our hearts. I strongly believe in the power of molecules and appreciate everyone's continuing and generous support for ITbM.
Comment by Dr. Seiichi Matsuo (President of Nagoya University)
ITbM has been selected as a WPI center in autumn 2012, and is continuing to carry out various challenges as an international research center, with the researchers, administration and supporting staff working together under the strong leadership of the Director Kenichiro Itami. Nagoya University has been supporting ITbM's activity from the start of the project. ITbM directly reflects the open and natural atmosphere of Nagoya University, and has grown to become one of the representative research centers in Nagoya University.
As the President of Nagoya University, I am extremely happy and proud that ITbM has received the highest score of the WPI Interim Evaluation. As Nagoya University is aiming to become a world-class research university, ITbM is a crucial international hub for basic research. I hope to continue to provide the necessary support for ITbM.