US-Japan Cooperative Medical Science Program Organization and History

Organization and History

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 U.S.-Japan Cooperative Medical Science Program (U.S.-Japan CMSP) 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 Southeast Asia. The relevant regions in Asia are not specifically delineated, but are generally understood to include the Republic of Korea in the north, India and Pakistan to the west, and other intervening nations in the broad Pacific Basin.

Following the Sato-Johnson summit, a series of meeting was organized between American 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 the respective governments about broad aspects of the program, set policy, and develop review procedures to ensure that program objects were met. The first delegates of the Joint Committee established a panel system applicable for each disease category, and appointed scientists to conduct an annual review of the scientific progress for each panel.

In 1996, the U.S.-Japan CMSP pioneered the scientific conference “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 held annually in alternating countries and provides a venue for panel meetings and discussion of cross-cutting topics related to infectious disease research.

The U.S.-Japan CMSP 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 U.S.-Japan CMSP were cholera, leprosy, parasitic diseases, tuberculosis, and viral diseases. Today, the scope of the program has expanded considerably, with nine panels and one board of scientific experts from each country overseeing research activities in the following areas:

  • Acute respiratory infections
  • AIDS
  • Cholera and other bacterial enteric infections
  • Genes, environment, and diseases
  • Hepatitis
  • Immunology
  • Nutrition and metabolism
  • Parasitic diseases
  • Tuberculosis and leprosy
  • Viral diseases

The program’s panels and board function under specific guidelines that are modified as health concerns change, research advances, and scientific capabilities expand.

Notable Scientific Achievements

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.

Ongoing Cooperation

The U.S.-Japan CMSP sponsors international meetings, workshops, and conferences on health issues of concern to the countries of the Pacific Rim. These conferences are designed to draw attention to the importance of emerging infectious diseases, to serve as a clearinghouse of 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 U.S.-Japan CMSP is its continuing role in fostering the exchange of scientists between the United States and Japan, which enriches the training of young scientists and leads to important collaborative research. The U.S.-Japan CMSP also seeks research collaborations in developing countries in Southeast Asia on health topics of mutual interest.

Funding for the U.S.-Japan CMSP is provided by each country. In Japan, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare; and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology support the program. In the United States, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of State support the program.

The 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan CMSP was celebrated January 11-15, 2016, in Rockville, Maryland, USA. A workshop was conducted focusing on bacterial and parasitic diseases of importance in the region. Approximately 600 participants primarily from countries within the Pacific Rim Region attended.

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