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The Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases of Osaka University (BIKEN)

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History and Outstanding Features

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Since its establishment in 1934, The Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases of Osaka University (BIKEN) has been dedicated to the development and supply of vaccines, in response to the particular needs of the time. BIKEN contains both Research and Development Division and Production Division, and its work is focused on making contributions to the improvement of public health in Japan and across the entire globe. 

BIKEN works in collaboration with the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases (RIMD) of Osaka University to implement programs designed to assist the advance of public health and medicine. Today, it is able to supply more than 20 biological products, including vaccines.

BIKEN Vaccines: Protecting the World

In 1974, Professor Michiaki Takahashi of the RIMD succeeded in developing a vaccine for varicella (chickenpox). Dr. Takahashi’s vaccine was the only varicella vaccine in the world that was verified as safe and effective by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the time. BIKEN took on the manufacture and sales of the Dr. Takahashi’s vaccine, as well as the supply of the vaccine to countries around the world. Today, 8 million dozens of that vaccine are supplied to more than 100 countries worldwide, under the name “Biken”. In the United States, it was approved for general public vaccination, and regular vaccination programs have been carried out since 1996.

Elsewhere, another vaccine—Biken CAM for measles—has been adopted for the WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and continues to be a useful part of it today.

BIKEN also manufacturers, develops, and supplies to the globe vaccines intended to protect the world’s population from other infectious diseases, including Japanese encephalitis, Rubella, tetanus, and influenza.  

Leading the World in Preventing Infectious Disease

BIKEN has built up a framework of global cooperation with regard to its production and supply lines; this has contributed in no small part to the popularization and penetration of vaccines. In 1980, BIKEN sent 18 staff members to Brazil to cooperate in a vaccine production project, helping to complete a production line for Rubella vaccines in that country. In Indonesia, BIKEN collaborated with a vaccine production project, including the completion of a Rubella vaccine production line. BIKEN has also provided technical support for the development of vaccine production lines for Japanese encephalitis in Thailand and Vietnam, and for varicella and influenza in China.

Since 1994, BIKEN has worked with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to take in trainees from different countries around the world; BIKEN provides technical training and instruction. In 1999, this program became a WHO approved course. After receiving training at BIKEN, trainees go on to work in vaccine production and management in their own countries.

A WHO survey revealed that a quarter of all deaths in all countries every year is the result of infectious disease. It is true that many infectious diseases have been eradicated through vaccination, but new pathogens are ever emerging—such as SARS, avian influenza, and other new strains of influenza. The speedy development and widespread provision of effective vaccines are of increasing importance.

BIKEN makes use of its status as a privately run institute to ensure that commercial applications for the technology resulting from its research and development are developed promptly, and that applications for approval by accreditation organizations and supply of finished products are also carried out as quickly as possible.

Today, preparations are underway for the opening Seto Center of BIKEN’s Kanonji Institute, scheduled to begin full operation in 2013. This Center is intended to become the core facility for the development and production of new vaccines. It is doubtless that, in the future, BIKEN vaccines will continue to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and protect the health of humankind.

Jun 27, 2012

About the author
Hiromi Jitsukata is a reporter for Japanest NIPPON

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