Two decades have passed since Keio established Tsuruoka Town Campus (TTCK) in Yamagata Prefecture. In that time, TTCK has boldly pursued advanced fields and actively promoted new biotechnology developments through academic ventures that pave the way for a better future. Here we look back on the illustrious twenty-year track record of TTCK, which has also gained recognition as a model case for regional revitalization.
In April 2001, Keio University opened Tsuruoka Town Campus of Keio (TTCK) in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. The campus was built in a collaboration between the Yamagata prefectural government and the Shonai municipal government with the Keio University Institute for Advanced Biosciences (IAB) and Chido Library at its core.
As a pioneer of integrated systems biology, which brings together information technology and the life sciences, the IAB has the world's largest metabolome analysis facilities and is engaged in a wide variety of research in fields related to the environment, health and medical care, and food and agriculture.
The Chido Library was designed to be a new kind of library with its media being jointly managed and shared between Tsuruoka City, Keio University, and the Tohoku University of Community Service and Science. In November 2007, the IAB opened the Karadakan Community Health Information Station (now shortened to "Karadakan") inside the Chido Library. As part of its contribution to the community, the library provides residents with a wide range of information related to health and wellness and disease prevention.
TTCK is a spacious, state-of-the-art campus in a beautiful natural environment that inspires creativity and stimulates growth. It is equipped with both the hardware and software needed to tackle new scientific challenges.
The primary mission of TTCK is to integrate—not separate—cutting-edge research with education for students who have creative ideas and a passion for learning. The Keio Bio Camp embodies this mission well as a program for students from SFC's Faculty of Environment and Information Studies and Faculty of Policy Management to spend up to one year living and learning at TTCK. The program's educational curriculum allows students to earn credits as they engage in research and conduct life science experiments using state-of-the-art facilities.
For students wishing to go on to graduate school, Keio has also established the System Biology program at the Graduate School of Media and Governance. Students can also attend SFC classes remotely while participating in cutting-edge IAB projects that include genomic engineering and metabolome analysis at TTCK. This graduate program is unlike any other in the world, and students earn credits using research resources across disciplines and campuses.
Every year since 2001, TTCK has held Keio Summer Bio College, a training camp for students at Keio's affiliated schools, as well as other programs aimed at high school students.
In May 2009, TTCK launched an afterschool research assistant program that brings students from the adjacent Tsuruoka Chuo High School to help with research at the IAB. The high school student research intern program began two years later, in 2011, for students who wish to obtain their doctorate and become researchers in the future. Each year, TTCK accepts between six and twenty of these students from eight high schools and technical junior colleges in Tsuruoka and Sakata.
Also in 2011, Yamagata Prefecture and Tsuruoka City co-sponsored the first Bio Summit in Tsuruoka, which brought high school students from all over Japan to TTCK for a two-night, three-day conference over the summer holidays, providing a valuable opportunity for students to present their findings on life science research topics and discuss the future of the biosciences.
Twenty years after its founding, TTCK's cross-disciplinary research and education has produced numerous talented, creative graduates and venture companies.
In 2003, Human Metabolome Technologies, Inc. was established with the metabolome analysis technology developed by TTCK at its core. In 2013, it was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers Index and has since won numerous honors, including the 2015 Japan Bio-Venture Award.
Spiber Inc., known for its successful development of artificial spider silk—something that not even the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA were able to achieve—is also a TTCK venture (see Juku SPRING 2021 No. 310 for more). TTCK has been responsible for a total of six venture companies, five of which are based in Tsuruoka City.
Both RIKEN and the National Cancer Center have recently established laboratories in Tsuruoka City and are engaged in research collaborations with the IAB. Due largely in part to TTCK, Tsuruoka is increasingly being recognized as a hotspot for advanced science and technology and a successful example of regional revitalization fueled by research and education.
*This article originally appeared in Stained Glass in the 2021 spring edition (No. 310) of Juku.