Organization and History
The United States-Japan Cooperative Medical Sciences Program (USJCMSP) is one of the oldest bilateral programs in the history of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It was established in 1965 to address public health issues in the Asia-Pacific region. For over 50 years, the program remains active and continues to focus on enhancing and fostering research collaborations between U.S., Japanese, and other researchers from the region.
In January 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato met and issued a joint communiqué recognizing their mutual concern for the health and well-being of all peoples of Asia. The USJCMSP was founded in accordance with this communiqué. The United States and Japan agreed to undertake an expanded, cooperative research effort in the medical sciences, concentrating on health problems in the Asia-Pacific region. The relevant regions in Asia were not specifically delineated but include countries in southeast Asia, the Republic of Korea in the north, India and Pakistan to the west, and other nations in the broad Pacific Basin.
Following the Sato-Johnson summit, a series of meetings were organized between U.S. and Japanese scientists, ultimately resulting in the formation of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee. Committee members were appointed by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Department of State to advise their respective governments about broad aspects of the program, set policy, and develop review procedures to ensure that program objectives were met. The first delegates of the Joint Committee established a panel system for each disease category and appointed scientists to conduct an annual review of the panels’ scientific progress.
In 1996, the USJCMSP pioneered the scientific conference “International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) of the Pacific Rim.” This addition to the structure and annual agenda presented a framework for the joint aspects of the program. The EID conference is usually held annually in varying countries in the region and provides a venue for panel/board meetings and discussion of cross-cutting topics related to infectious disease research.
The USJCMSP continues to thrive, evolve, and respond robustly to the new, emerging infectious disease challenges of Asia and the greater Pacific region under the leadership of the program’s delegation.
Areas of Study
In 1965, the areas initially selected for study in the USJCMSP were cholera, leprosy, parasitic diseases, tuberculosis, and viral diseases. Since then, the scope of the program has expanded considerably, with nine panels and one board of scientific experts overseeing research activities in the following areas:
- Acute respiratory infections
- Cholera and other bacterial enteric infections
- Mycobacterial diseases
- Nutrition and metabolism
- Parasitic diseases
- Viral diseases
The program’s panels and board function under specific guidelines that are modified as health concerns change, and as research advances, opportunities, and scientific capabilities expand.
Notable Scientific Achievements
More than 50 years of scientific collaboration have contributed to the development and testing of oral rehydration to treat cholera and other diarrheal diseases; new or improved vaccines for cholera, hepatitis B viruses, and rotaviruses; and identification of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin as an effective treatment for filariasis. Recently, significant advances have also been made in the areas of HIV, influenza, tuberculosis, and immunology research.
The USJCMSP sponsors international meetings, workshops, and conferences on health issues of concern to the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. These conferences are designed to draw attention to the importance of emerging infectious diseases, to share scientific and public health information on these diseases, and to identify areas of research that need additional emphasis or support.
Another hallmark contribution of the USJCMSP is its continuing role in fostering the exchange of scientists between the United States, Japan, and the Asia-Pacific region, which enriches the training of early-stage investigators and young scientists and leads to important collaborative research. The USJCMSP also seeks research collaborations with scientists from the region on health topics of mutual interest.
Funding for the USJCMSP is provided by both the United States and Japan. In Japan, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED), the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW), and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) support the program. In the United States, the NIH supports the program.
Following the 50th anniversary of the program, the USJCMSP Collaborative Awards program was established to foster new or expanded infectious disease and immunology focused biomedical research collaborations between researchers in the United States, Japan, and the Asia-Pacific region and to promote the inclusion of early-stage or female scientists in collaborative research.