UNMC enters into partnership with Japanese scientists

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public affairs | April 04, 2008

picture disc.
Alexander "Sasha" Kabanov, Ph.D., signs a partnership document between UNMC  and four Japanese institutions as Yukio Nagasaki, Ph.D., left, of the University Tsukuba and UNMC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Rubens Pamies, M.D., look on.
While growing up in Russia, UNMC's Alexander "Sasha" Kabanov, Ph.D., said he acquired an extreme admiration for the work of Japanese researchers.

His admiration, Dr. Kabanov said, was refined by his scientist father's consistent praise and attention to the scientific contributions of Japanese scientists.

In fact, in the 1990s, shortly after the communist's imposed travel restrictions fell, Dr. Kabanov went to Japan to visit with some of the country's researchers.

"I met some very special people on that trip who were doing amazing work," said Dr. Kabanov, Parke-Davis Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the UNMC College of Pharmacy and director of the UNMC Center for Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine.

Among the scientists Dr. Kabanov met on that trip was University of Tsukuba's Yukio Nagasaki, Ph.D.

On March 25, Dr. Kabanov cemented working relationships with Dr. Nagasaki and other Japanese scientists as part of a partnership agreement the UNMC nanomedicine expert garnered between the medical center and four institutions from the island nation.

Collaboration comments

UNMC's Alexander "Sasha" Kabanov, Ph.D., comments on the collaboration between UNMC and four Japanese research institutions that could lead to the formation of what he calls a "materials medicine network."

Yukio Nagasaki, Ph.D., of the University of Tsukuba, comments on the agreement between his institution and UNMC.

Joe Chapuran of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development comments on UNMC's collaboration with four Japanese research institutions.

Both Drs. Kabanov and Nagasaki hope the partnership will allow for the successful development of what Dr. Kabanov refers to as a "materials medicine network."

Materials medicine is a term Dr. Kabanov uses to describe the interface between materials science -- such as chemistry and physics -- and biological sciences and medicine.

Dr. Kabanov and others believe by using nanoscience and engineering, materials medicine may lead to new drugs and treatments for many major health issues.

The four Japanese institutions -- the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Science University, Osaka University and RIKEN, a natural sciences research institution in Japan -- are home to some of the world's best material scientists, Dr. Kabanov said.

Combining their expertise with the biomedical expertise of UNMC investigators could lead to significant improvements in patient care and treatment on a global scale, Dr. Nagasaki said.

The agreement was signed Dr. Kabanov, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Rubens Pamies, M.D., and officials from the participating Japanese institutions.

Such partnerships hold promise for the future and help UNMC in its quest to become a world-class academic health sciences center, Dr. Pamies said.

"To become world class, we must collaborate with the best scientists the world has to offer," Dr. Pamies said. "This partnership allows us to do that."

Along with the signing of the partnership agreement, scientists from UNMC and the Japanese institutions also took part in a mini-symposium that may have led some scientists to forge common ground that could lead to future cooperation, Dr. Kabanov said.

"We had a very successful conference with an exceptionally high quality of talks from scientists at all institutions," he said. "The research discussions and poster presentations generated excitement among those in attendance."

UNMC's Luis Marky, Ph.D., and Mizuo Maeda, Ph.D., of RIKEN and the Tokyo University of Science were among those who participated in fruitful discussions at the mini-symposium.

Dr. Maeda is internationally-known for his work in attaching DNA to materials or polymers and Dr. Marky is known around the world as an expert in DNA.

"After we talked and exchanged manuscripts, it became clear that we may be able to collaborate," said Dr. Marky, a professor in the UNMC Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. "We both felt that our knowledge of DNA and polymers be very fruitful in advancing our field."

What others are saying

"UNMC officials have long valued relationships with Japanese institutions and I'm glad to see this come to fruition. Dr. Kabanov deserves a lot of credit as his reputation globally as a nanomedicine expert has opened pathways to make the partnership possible." -- Don Leuenberger, UNMC Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance

"I'm excited by the prospect of having our scientists interact with their Japanese counterparts. These partnerships make our world of research smaller and allow us to advance science in a much more comprehensive approach. I'm thrilled that UNMC and the College of Pharmacy are a part of this venture and I'm excited to see what developments come out it." -- Courtney Fletcher, Pharm. D., dean of the UNMC College of Pharmacy