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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

From "treatment" to "prevention. The Genome Clinic talks about the appeal of Kashiwanoha Campus, a city of health and longevity

31VENTURES KOIL is located adjacent to Kashiwanoha Campus Station in Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture. Equipped with a co-working space, office space, and factory space, the facility is open to the community and expands the possibilities for open innovation. Opening an office and lab at 31VENTURES KOIL in April 2019 is Genome Clinic Inc., a business that deciphers genomic genes to determine the risk of developing certain cancers. What kind of potential does this business have and why did they choose the Kashiwanoha Campus? We asked Hiroki Sonehara, representative director of the company, together with Kaori Nishibayashi of Mitsui Fudosan.
*This article is a reprint of an article published in 31VENTURES on December 10, 2015.

Met in a contest and opened a clinic in KOIL.

Hiroki Sonehara / Doctor and Representative Director, Genome Clinic Co.
Kaori Nishibayashi / Manager, Business Group, Venture Co-Creation Business Department, Kashiwanoha Urban Development Promotion Division, Mitsui Fudosan Co.

Can you tell us about your encounter with Mitsui Fudosan and your impression of the company?

great and small fieldsThe first opportunity I had was when I entered the Asia Entrepreneurship Awards (AEA), which Mitsui Fudosan co-sponsored. I had little experience participating in contests, so it was a great asset for me to meet many venture business people and dive into the exciting world, and I felt that Mitsui Fudosan is a wonderful company that is creating a platform.

western forestAEA has been running since 2012, and it was in 2017 that Mr. Sonehara participated in the competition, wasn't it? That year we established the "Kashiwanoha Award" for the first time, and the winner of this "Kashiwanoha Award" was Sonehara-san's Genome Clinic. The Kashiwanoha Award was created because we wanted to give the prize to someone who matched the city's concepts of "environmentally symbiotic city," "new industry creation city," and "city of health and longevity," since this was not a general venture contest but something we were doing in the city of Kashiwanoha Campus. After listening to the presentation, the Genome Clinic project fits exactly with "healthy longevity" and "new industry creation. In particular, the perspective of "prevention" rather than "treatment" of disease matched our company's aspirations, so the award was unanimous.

great and small fieldsAfter that, when we opened the genome clinic, we were introduced to the office at 31VENTURES KOIL. Then, we also had a lab for actual genetic analysis at a different location, which was also introduced to us by Mitsui Fudosan. 31VENTURES KOIL has an office where we actually invite people who want to be tested and provide feedback for counseling and explanation of the test content, but the lab is located at a different location. established in a different location due to the need for facilities such as running water and ventilation fans. The office is close to the station for easy access.

Prevention, not cure.
Genome analysis to understand the risk of developing cancer

How is the "BRCA seq" offered at the Genome Clinic different from existing genetic and other tests to determine disease risk?

great and small fieldsFirst, "BRCA Seq" is a test that reads the sequence of the "BRCA" gene, a gene deeply involved in the suppression of breast and ovarian cancer, and from there matches it with a database to determine if there is a risk of developing the disease. The field of genome analysis has only begun to spread in the past five years, and interest in this field is growing in Japan as well. So-called consumer genetic tests look superficially at differences in gene sequences that are common among individuals. Therefore, the accuracy in predicting diseases is still low. On the other hand, our test deciphers the entire gene sequence, so it is possible to make a more accurate judgment. Another feature of our test is that it is available at a very low price in the 30,000-yen range (excluding tax).

western forestOne of the things I particularly look forward to about Dr. Sonehara's "BRCA Seq" is that it is a test conducted by an actual doctor. There is a great sense of trust in the fact that the doctor himself has set up the venture, provides face-to-face counseling, and provides test results based on medical evidence.

great and small fieldsIf the results of the evaluation indicate that you are at high risk of developing the disease, we will follow up with you by providing information on appropriate medical facilities and explaining detailed testing procedures.

western forestIn the normal course of events, you don't know if you have cancer until it actually develops, and even if you have regular checkups, it is meaningless if it develops in the course of your daily life.

great and small fieldsI agree: that's exactly right. However, if we have the results of the genome clinic, we can take measures against the onset of the disease that may come sooner or later. As I am also a doctor affiliated with Chiba University Hospital, I can suggest appropriate medical institutions and measures to be taken.

It's a town I've been attached to since I was a student here.
Attractions of Kashiwanoha Campus

What do you personally find attractive about this town?

great and small fields: Before entering Chiba University School of Medicine, I was doing basic research related to genes at the University of Tokyo Graduate School, and I was doing research at the Kashiwanoha Campus for about three years at that time. At the time, LaLaport Kashiwanoha had just opened, and I remember going there with my friends to see what it was all about (laughs). I remember going there with my friends to see what it was all about (laughs). (laughs). I have many memories of Kashiwa-no-ha, and I am very attached to the town where I studied along with its development. ......

What do you think about KOIL? What were the deciding factors for you to set up your office here?

great and small fieldsI like the atmosphere. I like the open atmosphere. I don't talk with other office workers or coworking space users, but when I see them, I can tell that they are working hard. I also like the cafe (CAFE AGORA). I like to relax and read papers for a change of pace.

western forestWe also wanted to have the Genome Clinic set up a base of operations here. We think the beauty of 31VENTURES KOIL is that it is accessible to everyone without barriers. It also has a café and is a place where people can casually visit even if they are not office users, so we thought it would be a good fit for the Genome Clinic, where a wide variety of people would visit for counseling.

great and small fieldsI see families eating at AGORA, too.

western forestWe hope that people from different positions and backgrounds, such as families, office and coworking space users, researchers at nearby university campuses, and doctors at hospitals, will meet here and that new possibilities will emerge. We hope that people from different positions and backgrounds, such as family members, office and coworking space users, researchers at nearby university campuses, and doctors at hospitals, will meet here and that new possibilities will emerge.

Making the most of the location where diverse "knowledge" gathers,
Kashiwanoha Campus continues to grow

Now that you have mentioned the great potential of KOIL as a venue, please tell us about the future possibilities for the Kashiwanoha Campus area.

western forestKashiwanoha has always been an area of cutting-edge research and diverse technologies, including the University of Tokyo, Chiba University, the National Cancer Center East Hospital, and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. We are promoting the "Kashiwanoha Smart City" concept in order to create a town that takes advantage of this attraction. The accumulation of "knowledge" to date is an attraction that Kashiwanoha is uniquely blessed with. Our goal is to expand that "knowledge" and make it take root in the city.

great and small fieldsThe location of the National Cancer Center Hospital East is a big advantage for Kashiwa-no-ha. It is also one of the major centers for cancer research in Japan, and should develop as a center for cancer genome medicine. Also, doctors are surprisingly active in starting their own businesses (laughs). There are several doctors among my peers who have started their own businesses, and I think this will become a bigger wave in the future.

Indeed, interest in medicine and health care is growing and may be an easy business opportunity to exploit.

great and small fieldsFor example, AI technology will be closely related to the advancement of medical technology. No matter how much AI-based diagnostic imaging technology advances, it would be a waste if doctors do not have the knowledge to correctly read and utilize it.

I think doctors are going to get busier and busier (laughs).

great and small fieldsI don't think so (laughs). For example, the difficulty of surgery as well as the burden of treatment on patients varies greatly between early-stage cancer and advanced cancer. Since early-stage cancers can often be cured without much burden, we can reduce the burden on doctors by taking actions such as frequent checkups for early detection and treatment, and using tests like "BRCA Seq" to understand and prevent your own risk. Therefore, I hope that you will take frequent health checkups and examinations and maintain a constant interest in your own health.

Humans have about 22,000 genes.
I would like to take this analysis further.

What are your future plans for the Genome Clinic?

great and small fieldsSonehara: Sonehara: As for our company, we are considering growth on two fronts. The first is to make "BRCA Seq" known to more people and have them take it. For example, we currently offer only in-person counseling, but we would like to make it possible for people far away to take the test by offering online services, etc. The second is to increase the number of genes that can be used for judgment. The second is to increase the number of genes that can be used in the test. In other words, we would like to further enhance the contents of the test. Currently, we focus on two genes to determine the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, but there are approximately 22,000 genes in the human body. We would like to find out what all of these genes mean and eventually elucidate the function of all 22,000 genes. Of course, this will take a great deal of effort, but it will provide more information that will be useful in preventing and intervening in disease. Medical treatment that takes preventive measures against risk is called "preemptive medicine," and I believe that this will increasingly grow as a field of medicine in the future.

western forestHere in Kashiwanoha, we would like to see companies that can provide space, capital, and networks team up with venture companies that excel in footwork, creativity, and technology to create new collaborations. I would like to make Kashiwanoha a town where such a virtuous cycle is born.

If you live in Kashiwanoha Campus, you are likely to become more and more interested in health-related knowledge and concerns without even knowing it! Thank you very much for your time today!

writing (e.g. as a profession)
Official WEB site of 31VENTURES, Mitsui Fudosan Venture Co-Creation Divisionhttps://www.31ventures.jp/column/
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