Researcher Interview Vol.2, Hiroshi Kimura 

“Microfluidic device technology that embodies medical science and engineering collaboration”

―Please tell us about your research.

My aim is to cultivate new research fields and industries by bringing micro / nano device technology specifically from the engineering field together with a diversity of other research fields. As the name implies, our micro / nano device is a small machine, and with the use of semiconductor microfabrication technology and 3D printers / plotters, we can custom design and process these micron-ranged small spaces. We are focused on integrating such devices together with biotechnology, and are working hard every day to develop systems that can be applied to medicine and drug discovery. By handling living cells and rebuilding biological functions in a small artificially created space, our research hopes to both replace animal experiments in drug discovery as well as to elucidate unknown life phenomena. Indeed, what we are developing is a hybrid mechanical-biological system. A system which skillfully combines seemingly incompatible things such as machines and living things, not only affords greater convenience for its medical applications, but it also sets the stage for new discoveries.

-Please tell us about your activities at Micro/Nano Technology Center.

At the Micro / Nano Technology Center, I am the leader of the medical engineering and medical research collaboration team. This team actively promotes medical-engineering collaborative research aided by the fact that Tokai University is one of the few private universities with a medical school. I have been promoting collaborative research related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) ever since the establishment of the Micro / Nano Technology Center with Professor Hatano and Assistant Professor Otomo of the School of Medicine. It has also been adopted by the Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) as part of their “Bridging Research Strategic Promotion Program”.

Of course, even beyond the framework of this research team, we are actively engaged in collaborative research with other teams and researchers both inside and outside the University. My involvement in Micro / Nano device technology also extends beyond the medical field because of the technology’s impressive compatibility with a variety of different fields. Thanks to this, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from diverse fields. Therefore, I seek to have a meaningful understanding of not only the views of engineering researchers, but also those of medical and pharmaceutical researchers. At the Micro / Nano Technology Center, we aim to serve as a bridge between different fields of research.

-What is your research motivation?

There may be an obvious disparity between the problem of biology researchers struggling with a lack of proper experimental tools, and the problem of patients suffering from illness, or the problem of fishermen fearing marine radiation pollution, but for me, they all are my research targets whom I would like to help. For the few, or for the many, I would like to help them in the same way. While it may sound ordinary, my greatest motivation is to help people who are having problems with their research.

In a way, it ties into another motivation of mine as an educator at the University, which is to watch and advocate students’ growth.  Many of my research themes are conducted by students who belong to the laboratory. Witnessing them become adults through research activities is as exciting as making new discoveries in research.

-What is innovation that is useful for society?

With a declining birthrate and an aging population, it is expected that the importance of medical care will continue to grow, from advanced treatment to daily home-based examinations. Widespread availability of medical devices that are easy to operate and compact, like those we are currently developing, could allow everyone to be able to receive prompt tests and advanced treatment with peace of mind. My research is part of a new cross-disciplinary research field which seeks to create an innovative system by combining cutting-edge engineering technology with various academic fields such as medicine and biotechnology. The 21st century is called the age of biotechnology, along with IT (information technology). Research on advanced technologies that fuse such engineering and biotechnology will draw more attention in the future.

-Please give a message to the students.

Soon after graduation, students will work in society. The process of research is the same as, and so will need to prepare you for, the process of working in the real world. You will acquire problem-solving skills, critical-thinking skills, and develop strategies for achieving objectives, which are all otherwise difficult to learn in a classroom setting. And, no matter what, the sheer joy of accomplishing your research goals is irreplaceable. Please try various things through your research activities. I’m sure it will give you confidence. At Tokai University and the Micro / Nano Technology Center, there are many opportunities for everyone to play an active role.

Associate Professor Hiroshi Kimura

(Faculty of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering)

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Tokai University in 2012. He has been in his current position since 2015. During this time, he studied abroad as a visiting researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine 2017-2018. He specializes in bioengineering and microfluidics, and is engaged in medical science and engineering collaborative research that transcends the boundaries of academic fields. He is also the principal investigator of a large budget such as the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).

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