Our Roles and Aims
Since its establishment in April 1984, the Gene Research Center （GRC） has served four key roles in the following areas: (1) conducting advanced research on gene structure and function, (2) managing the safety of recombinant DNA experiments occurring both on and off the campus of the University of Tsukuba, (3) providing advanced equipment and specifically designed laboratories for gene research as a core facility of the University, and (4) offering information and training on recombinant DNA experiment techniques for the research community, especially for young researchers.
The two-story building, which encompasses a total floor area of 1500 m2, was established in autumn of 1985. During the following spring of 1986, the GRC was initiated as a shared-use facility. In the years following the inception of the facility, basic and applied gene research and the industrial application of transgenic organisms has garnered worldwide attention in the scientific community. In April 2000, the GRC was admitted for reorganization and expansion in recognition for our achievements in research. The reorganization resulted in three major changes to the existing infrastructure: (1) Two research areas which are entitled:“Diversity of plant genes” and“Collection and analyses of information of plant genes”were added onto the existing“Development of basic gene manipulating techniques”research area. (2) Staff members (three professors, two associate professors, two lecturers, one technical personnel and one administrative staff) were hired for employment at the GRC. (3) A brand new four-story building with a total floor area of 2300 m2 was constructed. The recently opened GRC was completed in July 2001 and then the advanced utilization was initiated shortly after.
In addition to the extensive laboratory facilities that are available for basic research, we also have the capacity to perform controlled studies under field conditions. The GRC has special screened greenhouses and confined fields that can be utilized for environmental risk assessment. These facilities are fundamental to assess the environmental impact of genetically-modified (GM) plants. We are proud to state that our facility is currently the largest for all Universities in Japan. Our GRC has conducted numerous joint collaborative studies on genetically-modified (GM) crops and trees with many researchers both within and outside the University of Tsukuba. As a component of such activities, we were the first institution in Japan to obtain permission from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan) for the Type 1 Use of transgenic plants for basic research. We are currently performing cultivation experiments of salttolerant eucalyptus. In addition to the regular research activities and services, the GRC now serves as a key institute in Japan for an internationally-coordinated genome project pertaining to solanaceous and cucurbitaceous plant species.
At the GRC, we are readily able to perform cutting-edge experiments using plant, animal and bacterial genes. Consequently, many users who have biological, agricultural, medical and other science related areas of interest, are capable of studying night and day. In response to a request from the University of Tsukuba safety commission on recombinant DNA experiments, we conducted workshops on recombinant DNA experiments for undergraduate students, graduate students, teachers, technical personnel and others. We have implemented a standardized examination which enables users who have passed the exam to be registered as persons with permission to conduct recombinant DNA experiments. To date, more than 300 individuals have passed the exam each year and are therefore permitted to perform such experiments. As for providing information and training on techniques pertaining to recombinant DNA experiments, since its establishment the GRC, has held an intensive one-week training workshop (training course) which provides instruction for young researchers throughout Japan and Southeast Asia and enables them to learn basic techniques on recombinant DNA experiments. This workshop is held every autumn and is financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. In response to modern needs for our scientific community, we have recently initiated an advanced course. This advanced course covers the most recent techniques that are employed in plant molecular biology and it also offers diverse techniques pertaining to the usage of transgenic plants. The GRC is internationally recognized under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety on its empowerment function on various aspects of the biosafety.
In addition the aforementioned courses that are geared towards university faculty and students, we also initiated a new training course which is offered twice a year and is geared towards high-school teachers. All participants in this course are devoted to disseminating recombinant DNA experiment techniques for educational purposes and will hopefully entice future generations of students into studying this exciting field of science.
Since April 2006, we started the Bio-e-café which is held once a month. This café is a joint project that was initiated by the GRC and the Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences. The aim of this café is to provide an interactive atmosphere which stimulates the exchange of science related questions and answers between the staff of GRC, students and general citizens in the community. We are trying to concrete measures on science communication and train science mediators. As a result of the Bio-e-café initiative, we are hoping broadly distribute the latest knowledge and techniques on life sciences. Thus, we conduct various seminars, including the GRC seminar, and we hold active discussions.
All researchers at the GRC will continue to conduct proprietary research as a means to achieve our numerous objectives. We strive to continue to develop our center as the central institute of research on genetically-engineered plants not only in Japan but also for the global issues as well.
Thus, the GRC is one of the most active and prominent centers which functions as a cooperative-shared facility. It has been strongly encouraged that we make an effort to obtain public acceptance concerning recombinant DNA experiments and the use of transgenic organisms. We hope to obtain this through further promotion of the related technology and by always distributing various information of transgenic plants to society and the general public. In order to achieve the aim of the GRC, our goal is to remain active extensively into the future.
Director of Gene Research Center