Toshihiko Shiroishi, Ph.D.
In life sciences, it is important to select research materials that are most suitable for problem-solving. In the later 19th century, Gregor Mendel, who discovered the beautiful laws of inheritance with peas as his research material, then tried again using another plant, hawkweed. But he could not reproduce the laws of inheritance. We now know that hawkweed is unsuitable for mating experiments, because it has an asexual reproduction system. The history of life sciences is overflowing with examples of great discoveries being made when scientists used appropriate research materials. In the old days of biology, researchers prepared their study materials individually. In addition, research materials were distributed from individual to individual. Today, numerous bioresources (biological genetic resources) are prepared as research materials, collected and preserved intensively at bioresource centers, and offered to the research community. This is now the most efficient way for the research community as a whole to operate, in terms of both expense and labor.
In Japan, RIKEN established the BioResource Center (BRC) in 2001. BRC has collected, preserved and provided experimental mice, Arabidopsis thaliana as a laboratory plant, cell culture lines derived from humans and animals, microorganisms, and associated genetic materials, because there are so many users for these resources. BRC has also been developing basic technologies to stably preserve bioresources, whose numbers increase year by year. In addition, BRC has been working on the development of new resources and fundamental information about these bioresources. As the Center’s policy, BRC has aimed at becoming a core hub with distinctive geographical characteristics by collecting and preserving bioresources mainly developed in this country. By concentrating on quality control and striving to provide bioresources of the highest quality, BRC has earned the trust of domestic and international research communities and is now counted as one of the world’s three major bioresource centers. From April 1, 2018, BRC was relaunched as the BioResource Research Center (the abbreviation BRC remains the same). In addition to collecting, preserving and providing bioresources, BRC is now promoting the development of advanced bioresources and R&D to enhance utilization of the bioresources. The success of RIKEN BRC as summarized above has been achieved by the leadership of the founding director, Dr. Kazuo Moriwaki, and the second director, Dr. Yuichi Obata, and by the longstanding efforts of all BRC staff.
From April 1, 2019, I have been appointed the Center’s third director. I would like to take this opportunity to describe my vision for managing RIKEN BRC. In developing and managing the research infrastructure, stable operation underpinned by the key concepts of reliability and continuity is essential. Furthermore, flexible management with leadership that sensitively captures scientific advances is also required. With regard to leadership in particular, I believe we need to make further efforts to manage the Center’s operation so that it reflects academic trends and the needs of society and the research community. In addition, based on BRC being renamed as a research center, we need to strengthen our activity for developing advanced bioresources, and we would like to turn our attention to R&D to promote the utilization of bioresources as well. We aim to further develop the bioresource information infrastructure so that it can support users’ selection of research materials best suited for solving the problem. Research infrastructure development may seem like a simple process at first sight, but in reality it is not only support for research but is itself an important part of science. We can say that a bioresource center is located at the front line of research. With this awareness, I will continue to promote the Center’s activities, in collaboration with all BRC staff members, from now on. Finally, we ask your continued understanding and support for the further development of RIKEN BRC.