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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, July 25, 2003

Disease research center proposed in Kaka'ako

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer


A consortium of Japanese pharmaceutical companies and a government cancer research center is proposing to establish a more than $100 million disease research complex in partnership with the University of Hawai'i at its envisioned biosciences park in Kaka'ako.

Proposal negotiations have been evolving since November, and are close to resulting in a signed memorandum of understanding that would enable further planning of the project, said Edwin Cadman, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH.

Though still in a formative stage, the partnership could bring an emerging field of disease-profiling to Hawai'i, providing new opportunities for UH researchers and an ethnically diverse study population for the Japanese consortium that would benefit from research results.

The disease research center is the second major private research-related development proposal in Kaka'ako, where an affiliate of Japan-based construction firm Kajima Corp. plans to develop an aquarium and marine research facility on state land.

If established, both projects would further the state's vision of creating a biosciences research park in the area, where construction of a new $150 million medical school got under way last month.

The university also hopes to develop a new home for its Cancer Research Center that would offer Hawai'i cancer patients clinical trials of new drugs not yet in general use, though financing for that project is subject to raising $150 million in private money.

"We need a variety of research going on in Kaka'ako," Cadman said. "We need small companies, established pharmaceutical companies, and we need a private research institute to optimize our success. I think this (consortium proposal) is part of a balanced portfolio to develop research."

Cadman said the consortium, which involves Japan's National Cancer Center Research Institute, contacted him in November with the idea to expand proteomics research that the institute has conducted for about the past three years.

The study of proteins at a molecular level in the human body, proteomics goes beyond mapping the human genome and is a rapidly emerging field at universities and research institutions around the world.

According to Multimedia Research Group Inc., a California-based technology consulting firm, the proteomics market is projected to grow from $565 million in 2001 to more than $3 billion in 2006.

"One of the primary driving forces of this growth trend is the need to increase the return on investment in pharmaceutical (research and development)," Multimedia Research analyst Elaine Mansfield said in the report.

Cadman said it was premature to identify the companies interested in the proposed UH partnership, though he said there are about 10, including pharmaceutical firms and some of the biggest corporations in Japan.

Japan's National Cancer Center was established in 1962 by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and is the country's leading cancer research institution, with about 200 research and support staff and a 700-bed hospital.

The Japanese consortium and UH are generally interested in studying proteins in cells of healthy people and people with diseases such as cancer, diabetes and other illnesses to help predict, prevent and treat the ailments.

"What we want to do is create a database with thousands of patients and then use that to predict disease or prescribe therapies,"Cadman said. "Twenty-five percent of breast cancer patients respond favorably to chemotherapy. What is it about those 25 percent? Hopefully, when we profile these people, one can identify the factors that are responsible for those 25 percent of responders."

Hiroshi Mizushima, head of the bioinformatics section of the Tokyo-based National Cancer Center, said Hawai'i's ethnically diverse population is attractive for such research because of the comparison possibilities between ethnic groups.

Mizushima said it would be premature to discuss details of the proposal, including financial arrangements, and referred further questions to Cadman.

Cadman said the consortium is not asking for any state money, but would like a favorable lease on property near the medical school next to Kaka'ako Waterfront Park where sites are available on state and private land.

The research facility would not likely be bigger than the medical school's 216,000-square-foot research building, Cadman said. He also said there is enough room for an additional building on the 9-acre site because development of a UH Cancer Research Center was moved to an adjacent 5-acre parcel.

Cadman stressed that work on the proposal is still preliminary, though he said it is promising, and that he expects to receive a draft memorandum of understanding in as little as two or three weeks.

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8065.