• Kyodo

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The government will launch an infectious diseases databank later this month, starting with a plan to collect data on 10,000 COVID-19 patients by next March, to help firms and universities develop effective treatments, project members said Wednesday.

Under the project, the government seeks to first collect blood and saliva samples as well as the treatment records of COVID-19 patients and make them available for firms and universities researching the disease, possibly from this fall.

About 50 medical institutions are expected to join the project, and the databank will be managed by organizations including the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the University of Tokyo, they said.

The databank will first accumulate samples and treatment data of COVID-19 patients already stored at each institution and start collecting samples as well as data on treatment, severity, vaccination records and genome analyses of new patients who give their consent.

It is hoped such samples and data will show what type of people tend to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Universities and medical institutions in Japan have been managing data on infectious diseases separately, but they have faced problems such as having a limited number of people who analyze such data and being unable to keep samples when they run short of a research budget.

“It is very important for the state to take the lead in continuously operating the databank from the standpoint of national security,” said Wataru Sugiura, who heads the Center for Clinical Sciences at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine.

“It is also necessary to nurture people who can conduct research using the collected data,” he added.

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