The Nippon Foundation to Provide Osaka University with 23 Billion Yen to Assist its Project to Better Cope with Future Pandemics (2) [2021/10/06]
With President Shojiro Nishio (right) of Osaka University at a press conference on September 14, 2021, to announce The Nippon Foundation’s decision to provide 23 billion yen (about $209 million dollars) over the next 10 years for the university’s infectious disease research project.
The project has three main goals. First is to promote basic research into infectious diseases, look into the mechanism of the human immune system, antigens and microbes related to infectious diseases, and develop treatments against them.
Second, it will delve into social psychology and behavioral economics in addition to basic medicine. The partnership aims at delivering results that can reduce the impact of pandemics on economic and social activities. Moreover, the center will provide insights into the way the government handles public affairs activities with a view to ensuring that when there is an outbreak of an infectious disease, the public will be provided with timely, accurate and understandable information based on science.
Lastly, Osaka University will nurture over 10,000 health care professionals who will be available to combat infectious diseases so that the medical system won’t collapse due to staffing shortages.
Observing the efforts to deal with COVID-19 has made me keenly aware that an infectious disease outbreak is a “human security crisis,” posing a threat to the lives, livelihoods and dignity of people across the globe. The concept of human security has been debated for many years at the United Nations and other fora and was raised in connection with COVID-19 by then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in his video address to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2020. I believe that a pandemic of a deadly infectious disease is a crucial issue that affects the safety of people and thus the security of the world.
Japan has tended to give priority to applied science, which can produce immediate profits, over basic science. But one cannot build a building without a firm foundation.
Just as human beings must do everything to avoid wars, we must do all we can to avert climate change and its consequences, including natural disasters and the spread of infectious diseases that some experts suggest may be linked to global climate change. This is what has prompted the foundation to support the Osaka University project, which places a primary emphasis on basic medicine and science.
The Nippon Foundation, working from the motto of “providing is preventing,” has undertaken various initiatives to help the nation combat COVID-19. These include a 3.7 billion yen (about $35.7 million) project to build a makeshift facility with 140 beds for patients with mild or no symptoms, 4.98 billion yen (about $48.1 million) in assistance to 128 emergency medical services hospitals across the country that take care of severely ill and high-risk patients, and providing free and regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for essential workers at nursing homes in the metropolitan areas, to just mention a few.
By partnering with Osaka University, I envisage the creation of a world-class research hub that brings together topnotch researchers from universities and institutions across the globe and serves as a “global public good” that benefits all nations and peoples.
To prepare for a pandemic that might hit Japan and the rest of the world in the future, I believe it is vitally important to beef up the foundations of basic science and medicine from a long-term perspective and pave the way for applied science and medicine to effectively tackle outbreaks of infectious disease.