• Kyodo News

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Sixteen high-level medical research centers and universities have agreed in principle to jointly set up centers to collect patient DNA and body tissues and share data on therapeutic processes to boost international competitiveness in medicine through resource-sharing, sources said Wednesday.

The agreement was designed to promote medical innovation, a key policy goal under the government’s new growth strategy, the sources said. The government will support their plans to develop innovative drugs and medical equipment, they added.

The 16 are comprised of six government-backed centers — including the National Cancer Center and the National Center for Global Health and Medicine — and 10 universities, including the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University.

They will set up a common “biobank” for storing samples of body tissues and DNA of patients to be collected with their consent, as well as an information center for storing data relating to the therapeutic processes of the patients, they said.

Researchers outside the 16 institutions will be also allowed to take advantage of the anonymous samples and data for their studies of diseases and drug developments, the sources said.

The biobank and the information center will also act as a channel between researchers and drugmakers, providing researchers, for example, with data on what information drugmakers need, while identifying research outcomes that could be commercialized, they said.

The 16 entities, meanwhile, will consider establishing a team of intellectual property experts tasked with obtaining patents for the results of this research, they said.

They will also ask the government to enact legislation to ban any employment and insurance discrimination against those employed by the entities who are found to be at a higher risk of developing certain diseases through DNA analysis, the sources said.

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