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RIKEN delegation visited Luxembourg’s biomedical research centres

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Published on Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Representatives of the renowned Japanese RIKEN Centre for Integrative Medical Sciences (RIKEN-IMS) visited Luxembourg from 24 to 26 September 2018 to discuss latest scientific results, meet government representatives and the directors of the local biomedical research institutions. They presented current and future joint research projects and discussed on how to secure a long-term scientific collaboration between the two countries.

Beginning of a successful collaboration

RIKEN-IMS, located in Yokohama, Japan, is a renowned research centre conducting cutting-edge science to elucidate the pathogenesis of human diseases and establish new therapeutic methodologies. The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg and LIH have been intensively collaborating with RIKEN-IMS for the last few years in the field of immunology, microbiome and inflammatory diseases. In 2015, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalise the scientific partnership of both countries. Following this, a joint research project in immunology set up by the LCSB and LIH, was supported by the RIKEN AFR bilateral funding scheme of the FNR. In 2016, a first joint meeting with RIKEN representatives was organised in Luxembourg, and in 2017 a delegation that included the Luxembourg Minister of Health travelled to the research institutions in Japan.

Second RIKEN visit to Luxembourg

The present visit of RIKEN representatives aimed at further strengthening the ties with the Luxembourg biomedical research centres. On 25 September, a joint scientific symposium was held at the University of Luxembourg in the presence of Mrs Lydia Mutsch, Minister of Health, Mr Shigeji Suzuki, Ambassador of Japan, Prof Stéphane Pallage, Rector of the University of Luxembourg and Dr Marc Schiltz, Executive Head of the FNR. Executives from several research institutions were present: Prof Rudi Balling, Director of the LCSB, Dr Ulf Nehrbass, CEO of LIH, Dr Catherine Larue, Director of the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg (IBBL), Prof Friedrich Mühlschlegel, Director of the Laboratoire national de santé (LNS) and Prof Iris Behrmann, Head of the Life Sciences Research Unit (LSRU) of the University of Luxembourg. RIKEN-IMS was represented by its Director Prof Tadashi Yamamoto, its Deputy Director Prof Haruhiko Koseki and the laboratory heads Dr Harukazu Suzuki, Dr Hiroshi Ohno, Dr Matteo Guerrini, Dr Kazuyo Moro, Dr Eiryo Kawakami, Dr Jun Seita and Dr Todd Taylor.

Mrs Mutsch highlighted Luxembourg’s internationalisation strategy in healthcare, and different researchers presented the ongoing collaborative research projects between RIKEN-IMS and Luxembourg. As a symbol of the strong link between Luxembourg’s biomedical research community and the Japanese centre, the main meeting room in the House of Biomedicine II (BT2), one of the LCSB’s buildings on the Belval Campus, was named “RIKEN Conference Room”. The symposium was followed on 26 September by visits of the facilities of the LCSB, LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity, IBBL and the LNS.

Building a sustainable scientific relationship

Following the visits, a workshop aimed at fostering the exchange on the possible establishment of an outpost laboratory of RIKEN-IMS in Luxembourg. The creation of such a structure would leverage the existing expertise and infrastructure in Luxembourg to foster interdisciplinary research. The research focus would be on topics surrounding the role of gut-brain interactions and barrier function in relation to neuro-inflammatory and neurodegenerative conditions. An outpost laboratory could facilitate research stays for Japanese scientists in Luxembourg and engage both countries in a sustainable scientific relationship. To manage bidirectional exchanges, a national RIKEN contact point may also be appointed in Luxembourg. Associate Prof Paul Wilmes, head of the Eco-Systems Biology group at the LCSB and one of the main organisers of the visit, concludes: “The existing partnership with the RIKEN-IMS and the future strengthening of the relationship will allow Luxembourg to expand its expertise in biomedical research and, thereby, further contribute to Luxembourg’s international radiance.”