TOKYO -- Domestic laboratories and biotechnology companies are elated by the awarding of a Nobel prize to a Japanese cellular biologist as they see new business opportunities from a broadening of research in the field.
The 2016 prize in physiology or medicine went to Yoshinori Osumi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology for his work in autophagy, the mechanism involving degrading and recycling of cell components.
Takara Bio welcomed Osumi's win as a ringing global endorsement of Japan's capabilities in biological research and said it would work to provide products to support expanded research in the field.
The biomedical business arm of Takara Holdings markets a wide range of offerings that scientists can use for research on autophagy. These include florescent proteins used as markers to identify and observe cells under the microscope, reagents to investigate how autophagy works at the genetic level, equipment for genomic studies, and analytical services.
Cosmo Bio, a provider of tools for research in the life sciences, began handling reagents for autophagy research a decade ago and now offers hundreds of products. Most are imported, but it is also actively broadening its own brand of reagents.
Medical & Biological Laboratories has developed a number of reagents that it supplies to universities and other research institutions to study the mechanisms of autophagy. The bioventure said it is looking forward to serving a supporting role to help advance research in the field.
Applications research by pharmaceutical companies could also receive a boost.
No drugs have been developed yet to directly modulate autophagy. But this could change, given the links scientists are discovering between autophagy and a wide range of ailments, including cancer, diabetes and dementia.
Autophagy plays a role in cellular proliferation in many kinds of cancers. The malaria drug chloroquine acts to stop autophagy in cells, and this has been shown to prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
Chloroquine used in combination therapy can also sometimes enhance the efficacy of other cancer drugs. One example is Velcade, sold by Takeda Pharmaceutical for multiple myeloma.