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TWIns Changes the Fusion of Medicine, Science, and Engineering
Tokyo Women's Medical University / Waseda University Joint Institution for Advanced Biomedical Sciences

TWIns: A new center for research based on the fusion of medicine, science, and engineering. (Official name: Tokyo Women's Medical University / Waseda University Joint Institution for Advanced Biomedical Sciences

The Tokyo Women's Medical University / Waseda University Joint Institution for Advanced Biomedical Sciences opened in March of 2008. The institution, which is located next to the Tokyo Women's Medical University Hospital in Kawada Town, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, is a new center for the advancement of biomedical science research based on a fusion of medicine, science, and engineering. The name "TWIns" is derived by combining the "T" from Tokyo Women's Medical University, the "W" from Waseda University, and the "Ins" from Institution. As implied by the name, this institution is the start of a revolutionary project in which two universities cooperate in the operation of a single research/educational facility and its activities.

In the background of the opening of the institution is a long history of a medical and engineering partnership between the two universities, as well as a history of personnel exchanges that overcame organizational barriers. This history of cooperation is not generally known. Forty years ago, Tokyo Women's Medical University Professor Shigeru Sakakibara, a famous cardiac surgeon, was collecting the latest foreign literature in an effort to realize his dream of creating an artificial heart. He focused on using fluid dynamics technology to operate the heart, and he began searching Japan for such technology. He found that Professor Kiichi Tsuchiya of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in Waseda University's School of Science and Engineering, an expert in fluid dynamics was just around the corner at Waseda University. The two professors soon began collaborative research.

A few years later, a student whose hobby was railroads entered Waseda's School of Science and Engineering. the student was encouraged to develop sprinklers for the Shinkansen bullet train, a project jointly run by Professor Tsuchiya and the Railway Technical Research Institute. In his third year at Waseda, the student joined Professor Tsuchiya's research team. This student was Mitsuo Umezu,now Director of Advanced Biomedical Science Centre and Professor in the Department of Advanced Mechanical Engineering, School of Creative Science and Engineering, who is now Waseda's leader for the new institute TWIns.

Sprinkler Technology and Blood are the Same

Waseda's leader at TWIns, Professor Mitsuo Umezu

When Mitsuo Umezu entered graduate school, Professor Tsuchiya recommended that he pursue studies in the field of medicine. In response, Umezu couldn't help saying that "What I want to do is mechanical engineering. Isn't medicine totally unrelated?" Professor Tsuchiya replied,"The point isn't whether there is a relationship or not. What is important is how much of a relationship you can create."Umezu now says,"It's a fact that sprinkler technology and blood circulation both involve fluid control. At the time, I could never have imagined that engineering could contribute to the field of medicine. However, what Professor Tsuchiya said was truly an expression of the philosophy needed to create a partnership between medicine and engineering."

Umezu spent his days as a graduate student commuting to Tokyo Women's Medical University in order to conduct research regarding artificial hearts. He found an outstanding environment in which to perform research. He could freely enter operating rooms, catheter examination rooms, and intensive care units. He also enjoyed close communication with doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other staff. Umezu says,"As a naive kid from a different field, I asked many questions. The staff at Tokyo Women's Medical University seemed to find them interesting, and they were very helpful in providing answers. Over time, I grew used to medical technical terms, and all of the sudden I found myself speaking in the same way as "the other side".

Blood vessels formed from silicon resin and used for simulation

Umezu also participated in the "Anpan Meeting" led by cardiac surgeon Sakakibara. This meeting was held every month to report the results of research. At one of these meetings, Umezu was inspired when he heard a debate on methods of cardiac surgery. He used an artificial heart and rubber tubes to assemble a model which simulated the circulation of blood for repeated experiments. He says,"I obtained data suggesting that surgery method A was appropriate for cases in which the function of the heart had become extremely weak, and that surgery method B was appropriate when there was still room for recovery. When I announced my findings, there was great interest. And it was suggested that I use this topic when writing my thesis for a Doctorate of Medicine." With full support for this research, Umezu wrote a thesis and earned a Doctorate in Medicine from Tokyo Women's Medical University.

Under one roof, some positive results have been achieved surely and steadily

After receiving his degree, Umezu left Waseda and led projects to develop artificial hearts at the National Cardiovascular Center in Japan and at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia. He returned to his alma mater in 1992. During that time, the medical engineering partnership of both schools continued in fields such as artificial hearts, bio-instrumentation, and medicinal materials. Aspirations for research in the fields of medicine and bioscience at Waseda gradually began to take the form of a specific organization. In 2001, an interdisciplinary Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Bioscience and Medical Engineering was established. The Department of Life Science and Medical Bioscience began in 2007. Partnerships have been formed between departments such as Electrical Engineering and Bioscience. The accompanying major include programs in Biological Science in the Department of Science in the School of Education, Bioengineering and Robot Systems in the Department of Advanced Mechanical Engineering, and in the Consolidated Research Institute for Advanced Science and Medical Care. The latter was selected as a Center of Excellence by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In addition organizational development is being advanced through a partnership with Tokyo Women's Medical University.

These developments and partnerships led to the formation of the new comprehensive center. A site of approximately 6,600 square meters was acquired through the sales of government-owned property adjacent to Tokyo Women's Medical University. Initial proposals called for separate construction of each university's buildings within this site.

Each floor has space where researchers can exchange ideas while enjoying refreshments in a relaxed atmosphere.

Umezu says"I felt like saying'Wait a minute! Why are we in separate buildings when the center is based on a partnership?' Working together under the same roof is extremely important for the partnership of medicine and engineering. If an engineer cannot enter medical facilities and become fully involved in the world of medicine, then there can't be a true partnership. Now there is the possibility for this partnership to work in both directions." So,after thorough debate to overcome many problems, the facilities were merged into one building.

The benefits of a joint facility were apparent only a few months after opening. For example, when a Waseda student is scheduled to make a presentation at a medical science conference, He or she can consult a doctor to look at a practice presentation. The student can then receive advice on the type "of" presentation that will be well received by doctors. In this way a high-quality presentation can be created quickly through lively discussion. Umezu says,"In the end, no creative ideas come from formal and stylized roundtable discussions. It seems that exciting ideas are hiding within the talks of people chatting in the hallways, holding informal discussions, or exchanging ideas in a caf辿-like environment. For this reason, a lounge-type space was established in various areas on every floor of the building."

Overview of TWIns. There are many merits for two universities to occupy the same building.

A Vision Unconstrained by Convention

Open discussion that overcomes organizational boundaries is often held in various sites throughout the research facilities.

Umezu says, "For Waseda, there are two objectives for creating the new center. The first is to consolidate the research for life science and biology that had been dispersed until now. The second is to develop new fields through partnerships in medicine, science, and engineering." In an environment where medicine, science, and engineering mix in different ways, research is unconstrained by conventional thinking. A vision has been created for the new center to act as a base for creating new scenarios that shatter preconceived expectations.

Another unique aspect is an organizational structure that is not bound by the traditional separation of fields. Since the establishment of the major in Bioscience and Medical Engineering, groups formed based on research style not content. Umezu says,"Researchers can be divided into two main groups. The first develops research by building a base using previous knowledge. The second investigates unknown phenomena. These two approaches offer good balance, with approximately equal numbers of people. The ratio of doctors of science to doctors of engineering is about fifty-fifty.

A symposium entitled "The Form of a New Partnership in Research Fusing Medicine, Science, and Engineering" was held on March 19th at the Yayoi Memorial Hall of Tokyo Women's Medical University. It was, jointly sponsored by both universities and featured discussions on the direction that TWIns should take. Young researchers were a majority of those participating, and there was lively discussion regarding visions of the future. A major result was the creation of an open system that encourages innovation. Umezu says,"Development of unknown fields cannot be completed by only the members here today. We need to seek resources in a broad range from both within and outside of our universities. We also need to respond to others who seek resources from us. It is essential that we expand our system of research coordination."

Serendipity means"an aptitude for unexpectedly encountering new ideas". The concept seems to be based on chance encounters or good fortune. However, behind good fortune is an accumulation of effort and experience as well as preparation to create conditions that lead to fortunate encounters. We are trying to create these conditions at TWIns, which was founded on experience accumulated over 40 years.

System of the Waseda organizations that make up the TWIns Institute for Advanced Biomedical Sciences

Reference Links

Waseda University, Institution for Advanced Biomedical Sciences

Waseda University, School of Advanced Science and Engineering, Department of Life Science & Medical Bio-Science

Consolidated Research Institute for Advanced Science and Medical Care, Waseda University

Tokyo Women's Medical University