Japan trails US, China, EU in genomic revolution

About half of scientific papers related to genome editing are from the United States, followed by China and the European Union, while Japan trails at fourth, according to a Nikkei Shimbun report.

Only 3.3 percent of related patents filed worldwide from 1993 to 2014 were from Japan, compared with 54.5 percent for the U.S.A., 18.8 percent for China and 18.4 percent for the E.U., the report said. Less than 10 percent of Japanese patent applications were from companies rather than academia, indicating that practical application in Japan is lagging.

While the original impetus for gene-editing research was in the medical field, it has also resulted in rapid development of transgenic animals. For example, in 2015, a GMO salmon developed by Maynard, Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. became the first genetically-modified animal to be approved for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration. It is an Atlantic salmon modified with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and a promoter from an ocean pout. They reach maturity in 18 months, as opposed to 30 months for the unmodified animal.

The transgenic AquAdvantage fish, was recently approved for sale in Canada and is nearing full approval for sale in the United States.

Many other GMO animals are being developed. In Japan, a red sea bream has been created with increased body size, due to addition of a gene from a tiger puffer fish. More such developments are needed if Japan is to keep pace, the report said.


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