Summary authored by Asuka Kawachi, MD 

Enhancing Research and Development in Japan: Insights from the STOFF Meeting 

Asuka Kawachi, MD

I attended the STOFF conference with the aim of discovering insights into how Japan, with a unique research and development (R&D) environment distinct from the United States, can establish its significance in the realm of R&D.

In Japan, there is an absence of a well-established cycle where therapeutic success is derived from reverse translational research, leading to proposals for prospective clinical trials focusing on the extraction of effective population, elucidation of resistance mechanisms, and proposals for combination drug studies. Similarly, the cycle lacks the proposal of proof of concept trials stemming from forward translation research. 

This situation can be attributed to several factors: 

Insufficient scientific education: Physicians who propose physician-led clinical trials primarily lack sufficient scientific education, despite their extensive clinical experience. 

Historical lack of demand: Historically, there has been little urgency to engage in collaborative drug development with pharmaceutical companies, as opportunities are scarce, and the pharmaceutical companies conducting R&D in Japan are few. 

Grant-based academic funding: Japanese academia relies heavily on grant-based funding, leading to a lack of practical development focus within the research ecosystem framework, with limited cross-industry collaboration. 

Attending the STOFF conference provided valuable insights into the U.S. R&D landscape: 

Established career paths: In the U.S., clear career paths exist for clinical investigators and physician scientists. This helps young oncologists recognize the importance of robust biological hypotheses to success in clinical trials. 

Effective collaboration: Academic institutions in the U.S. engage in early-stage collaborations with pharmaceutical companies, facilitating mechanisms for swift feedback on effectiveness and resistance mechanisms. This collaboration expedites the drug development process.