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Creating a society resilient to infectious diseases — a core center established at TMDU promoting research, medical treatment, and education aimed at responding promptly to future emergencies


Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) launched the 'TMDU Center for Infectious Disease Education and Analysis (TCIDEA)' on November 1 to promote research and medical treatment of infectious diseases and human resource development (education) in cooperation with each block at the University during 'peacetime.' This was intended to allow the University to promptly respond to future emergencies by utilizing the experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Press conference presenters. From left: Deputy Director Hiroaki Takeuchi; Director Yoshiaki Gu; and Deputy Director Tomoko Yazawa.
Provided by TMDU

On the day of its launch, a press conference was held by Director Yoshiaki Gu of the Division of Clinical Medicine, Deputy Director Tomoko Yazawa of the Division of Social Medicine, and Deputy Director Hiroaki Takeuchi of the Division of Basic Medicine to explain the purpose and outline of the center's establishment.

The University made early efforts to combat the unprecedented emergence of COVID-19 and, from the outset, primarily accepted severely infected patients. Not only hospital staff but also basic science faculty contributed to PCR testing, including work in the biosafety level 3 (BSL3) facility. For infection control, they collaborated with the national government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to participate in cluster countermeasures. In basic research, whole genome analysis was performed in collaboration with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health. Furthermore, they worked on pathogen characterization analysis and the development of a high-precision rapid-detection device through collaborative research both within and outside the University. Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital and various blocks of clinical medicine, social medicine, medical treatment and research, and basic medicine collaborated to promote a university-wide approach.

"However, these COVID-19 responses revealed some problems," explained Gu. In terms of medical care, there was a shortage of specialists, and the first wave struck with little awareness of the crisis. On the research side, there was a lack of specialized facilities and personnel. On the knowledge side, there was a lack of information on infectious diseases evaluated from a professional perspective and a delay in selecting and sifting through the large volume of disseminated information and taking a systematic approach.

Therefore, the University has been promoting measures against infectious diseases by establishing new departments such as the Department of Infectious Diseases (Clinical Medicine) in 2021, the Department of Infectious Disease Emergency Preparedness (Social Medicine) in 2022, and the Department of High-Risk Infectious Disease Control (Basic Medicine) in 2023. Through these processes, TCIDEA focusing on these three fields was established.

TCIDEA's mission within the University is to serve as booster infrastructure for infectious disease research and education in peacetime; to advance research, medical treatment, and education in cooperation with each block within the University; and to disseminate information.

In the event of a crisis, an intramural system incorporating the concept of an incident command system will be promptly established, and the Division of Intelligence will take the lead in collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information.

Similarly, in cases of extramural collaboration, necessary infectious disease control will be promoted in society during peacetime to contribute to countermeasures against infectious diseases in Tokyo, Japan, and the world. In the event of a crisis, TCIDEA will contribute to the sharing of the latest information and the consideration and implementation of specific management strategies.

In terms of human resource development, TCIDEA will foster the development of international medical and health care professionals with a rich sense of humanity both inside and outside the University in peacetime. During emergencies, they will make maximum use of the human resources they have fostered and support crisis management with staff who can respond calmly and flexibly to unforeseen circumstances.

However, Gu pointed out that "when to make the decision to transit from peacetime to a state of emergency" will pose a challenge, emphasizing the importance of an Infectious Disease Intelligence Department that can detect new threats and other issues during peacetime and enables a swift transition from peacetime to the state of emergency.

Yazawa explained that they have therefore decided to assign a full-time staff member to tackle such issues and have appointed an internal medicine physician, who is a specialist in infectious diseases with experience in public hospitals and NIID, particularly focusing on nosocomial infections, to this position.

President Yujiro Tanaka of TMDU, who participated in the press conference online, stated, "We believe that it is important for the entire university to work together to organically respond to infectious disease control. Our university will merge with the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) in October next year as the Institute of Science Tokyo, but we believe that TCIDEA will continue even after the merger," indicating that TMDU is committed to contributing to the creation of a society resilient to infectious diseases.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. ( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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