Developing Elite Genomic Medicine Researchers Through International Collaboration

     Japan Gateway: The Kyoto University Top Global Program in Human Bioscience started the Kyoto-McGill International Collaborative School in Genomic Medicine (Ph.D. course) in April 2018. We interviewed Professor Fumihiko Matsuda, Director of the Center for Genomic Medicine, an affiliated department of the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine.

Taking Advantage of the Strengths of Two Universities

     This school cultivates researchers who will lead the world in the field of genomics with a joint program of two universities in Japan and Canada. The school is for the select elite, with only four students admitted every year.

McGill University possesses a genomics platform that is more developed than any that Japanese universities currently have. Kyoto University, on the other hand, is one step ahead of McGill University in “Omics,” which is a new field comprehensively probing into molecular information found in intermediate phenotypes such as blood metabolites and blood proteins.  Students learning and studying at the two universities, therefore, can take advantage of the strengths of both universities. The students get an advisor at their respective universities, who will give them full support during their studies. Moreover, they can obtain financial support. If I were a student, I would definitely apply for this school.

Aspire to Be a Real Genome Scientist!

      There are many “bioinformaticians” who can run existing programs, analyze existing patterns of data, and produce numerical results. The researchers we require, however, are real scientists who combine deep biological insights, foresee what sort of data and analyses can bring new knowledge, and make full use of genomic analysis.

     A kind of student we are expecting, for instance, is a young medical doctor. A medical doctor who brings in his/her research theme, samples and information based on his/her medical knowledge, conducts research and obtains his/her degree here at this school is one typical model. We do hope such students will acquire the abilities to organize big clinical trials, carry out analyses, and educate next-generation researchers.

     Of course, program admission is not limited to medical doctors. Those who are competent in areas such as mathematics, statistics, machine learning, and AI (artificial intelligence) will surely be able to play an active part at this school.  Our four first-year students are two Japanese medical doctors and two students from McGill University (one specializing in chemistry and another in pharmacology). Three of them are women. I am happy to see many women applicants willing to take on challenges. I have great expectations for the future of these four students.

Experience the World’s Forefront!

     This school is more difficult compared to the ordinary courses of this graduate school in some aspects. English proficiency is also required. In one-and-a-half to two years after admission, students’ academic abilities and knowledge to work on their thesis are assessed. Passing the assessment will enable students to work on their thesis. Then, they have to write a sizable doctoral dissertation in English and pass a thesis defence that can last for hours.

     Students are also required to stay at the partner university for at least a year. We expect that, during their stay abroad, they gain hands-on experience with how leading-edge research projects are conducted in other countries and become acquainted with students of the same generation who will be their future colleagues or rivals. Getting hands-on experience with world trends in research is also an attractive part of this program.

(Jan. 2019)