Japan launches new vaccine research hub to quicken future pandemic response

By on 05/04/2022 | Updated on 05/04/2022
A hand holding a syringe and vial with a backdrop of the Japanese flag
SCARDA has been likened to the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the National Institutes of Health

A new government body in Japan will pursue vaccine research and development to boost the country’s performance in the field as part of an international effort to improve pandemic response.

Set up in late March, the Strategic Center of Biomedical Advanced Vaccine Research and Development for Preparedness and Response (SCARDA) was created within the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development. Its core aim is to deliver safe and effective vaccines for a priority list of infectious diseases, as well as make vaccines produced in Japan more accessible to other countries.

SCARDA has been likened to the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the National Institutes of Health, which have a commitment to collaborate in public-private partnerships and make early investments in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

In a report by The Japan Times, a SCARDA official said that the organisation would “accumulate data and evidence in normal times and make the most of them in a health emergency”.

Around the world in 100 days?

Japan’s decision to launch the hub follows ambitious targets set by the G7’s ‘100 Days Mission’, named after the number of days its members seek to have diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines developed when the next pandemic threat is identified.

Its members’ leaders have committed to reducing the development cycle from 300 days. However, the practicalities of this remain challenging, since developing vaccines against infectious diseases is a high-risk project, and the timing and magnitude of viruses are very difficult to predict. In addition, most vaccines do not make it to market, which is costly.

Read more: Ex-Microsoft and McKinsey executives to lead Japan civil service reform

The Japanese government’s plan is to directly support private vaccine development by financing research and development costs. It plans to spend ¥51.5bn (US$420m) to prepare major development sites and will allocate ¥150.4bn (US$1.22bn) for research and development of vaccines against urgent communicable diseases, as well as the technologies associated with them.

Future-proofing Japan’s civil service

Japan has made efforts to modernise its government in recent years. In 2021, it launched a digital agency to develop better online public services and integrate IT systems across departments.

The agency was a policy priority for former prime minister Yoshihide Suga, who wanted to reenergise the government’s antiquated IT systems and paper-based services. To achieve this, Japan’s government brought in talent from the private sector, appointing Yoko Ishikura, a former manager with consultancy McKinsey & Co, as its chief digital officer.

In addition, it recently appointed two female corporate leaders – Katsura Ito, chief learning officer at Microsoft Japan, and Yuko Kawamoto, an ex-McKinsey consultant – into its civil service to help promote a merit-based system to replace existing incentives based on seniority and length of employment. They are expected to serve together in Japan’s National Personnel Authority (NPA), the agency which formulates recommendations on issues from civil service pay and working conditions to hiring guidelines.

Read more: Ex-Microsoft and McKinsey executives to lead Japan civil service reform

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

One Comment

  1. Hasini Ranasinghe says:

    I’m interested

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