The three Rs: Reciprocity, Relationships and Robots: Connected Health Cities at BioJapan 2018

Group CHC Hub

Posted on the 8th November 2018

By Ruth Norris, Head of Strategic Relations for Connected Health Cities and Health eResearch Centre

Navigating the health and care landscape can be a challenge, but one only surpassed by trying to negotiate the Tokyo metro after a 26 hour journey from Manchester via Dubai. But our journey was only just beginning – the week ahead in Tokyo and Yokohama was to be full and fruitful for the visiting Connected Health Cities team: Amanda Lamb (Chief Operating Officer), Gary Leeming (Chief Technology Officer) and Ruth Norris (Head of Strategic Relations).

Part 1: Tokyo
Old friends and new ideas

Enduring relationships are always invaluable, and after several years of being embedded in Greater Manchester City region’s innovation hub, it was a privilege to be able to reconnect with our long-time colleagues from Hitachi’s healthcare and research teams. We had a great morning’s meeting sharing recent insights, new avenues of opportunity and talking all things learning health systems. There was an exciting potential convergence with Hitachi’s current work on stroke pathways and follow up work is planned to draw on mutual expertise and explore new ways of working together.

Over a working lunch, Gary met with some colleagues who also worked with Hitachi in Salford, and are now developing innovative new technologies at Eagle Matrix. One exciting new project already in testing is in the use of virtual reality headsets and machine learning to identify blind spots in people’s vision. Gary also got to try out their new heart rate monitor, which is combined with an accelerometer to also monitor sleep quality and alert for sleep apnea. Amazingly, this was designed and developed using the 3d printer and electronics workshop inside their offices, and is now a class 1 certified medical device: agile, can-do innovation in action.

Reconnecting with colleagues from Hitachi’s healthcare and research teams

For our next meeting, we hot footed it over to Tokyo Tower on the metro (we were pros by this stage) to follow-up with PWC Japan. Building on contacts made earlier in 2018 by a University of Manchester faculty delegation, we met with Kei Kumar, Senior Manager, Health Industries Advisory PWC. Old friend of Gary and Ruth; University of Manchester alumnus; and former Manchester-Hitachi-NWEH project collaborator.

Kei brought us up to speed on Japan’s Bodylogical® platform: “PwC’s scientifically-developed predictive engine that mechanistically simulates the human body and its functions. Currently focused on chronic lifestyle diseases, this engine mirrors the body’s own physiological systems—circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, renal, and more—to create a unique model of every unique life.1 We explored several converging areas of mutual interest for research in the ‘digital twin’ space, and using examples of differing healthcare setup models as potential disruptive ways of making beneficial change.”


(L to R: Amanda Lamb, Gary Leeming, Ruth Norris , Kei Kumar UoM branded gift in hand, Tokyo Tower)

Nihonbashi Life Sciences Symposium

So, then it was time to catch up with our NHSA and MedCity delegation colleagues, and meet the other movers and shakers in Japan’s vibrant bio-innovation space at the welcoming Nihonbashi district’s life sciences hub.

The Link-J network hosted a world-class UK symposium on Ageing, Gene Editing & AI, with leading UK universities sharing their portfolios of world-class research and impact; an overview of Sheffield BRC’s NIHR funded research into neuroscience from Prof Mimoun Azouz, and yet another Manchester alumnus, Dr Namshik Han from Milner Therapeutics Institute University of Cambridge, a leading academic in computational biology.

Finishing up with hands-on demos from Random42 and an international BioClusters networking event, it was then time to dash off to BioJapan2018 as part of the 50-strong MedCity & NHSA UK delegation.




Networking at the Link-J UK Life Sciences Event, Hannah Davies (NHSA) and Prof. Mimoun Azouz, Sheffield, NIHR BRC)

Part 2: BioJapan 2018 – Yokohama

Reciprocity and Social Licence are both key underpinning cornerstones of the research and service improvements in health and care which are core to the Connected Health Cities method, and by the end of the BioJapan 2018 programme, the terms and their importance seemed to be have made for some great conversations and catalysed some promising collaborative ideas.

Both Amanda and Gary were presenting and participating in panel sessions focused on the ‘Era of Integrated Healthcare’ and ‘Digital Futures’ respectively and used the forums to introduce key CHC concepts to the international audience. Amanda’s session was comprised of the international experts Joseph Damond, BIO; Benjamin Seet, AStar; and Makoto Suematsu, Japan AMED. The session focussed on international innovation.

(The UK Life Sciences delegation/ led by MedCity and the NHSA at the UK exhibition hub, BioJapan 2018)

It was probably not surprising that data sharing was raised as barrier to innovation which is where the CHC Method offers a way forward through its focus on getting the ‘people-data-methods’ mix right. Multi-stakeholder solutions are generated in collaboration with citizens to ensure they not only have a stake but, importantly, that their voices are heard. The CHC Method offers a new way of delivering informatics and actionable data for social benefit.

Amanda commented: ‘We have to remember why we are doing research and driving innovation. It is for the benefit of our populations, local or global. We need to stop just doing research on people but start to do it with them – as a partnership. Importantly we as a community need to be better at demonstrating the benefit of research. Our citizens need to see and feel the reciprocity for them, their families and their community’.

The excellent team from Japan’s DIT and our friends at the NHSA office were incredible, creating targeted introductions, including a really exciting off-site conversation with the executive team from PST medical. Through partnership with University of Tokyo researchers, PST have developed MIMOSYS, a hand-held, mobile phone based tool to analyse mood in real-time using the person’s voice:

So, back home now, we are actively exploring ways to build upon this with The University of Manchester’s clinical and informatics expertise.

What We’ll Remember

Ruth has a natter with Pepper, SoftBank’s humanoid robot

Ruth: The highlight of the trip for me was an engaging address from Chief Executive of AMED, Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, Makoto Suematsu. AMED’s no nonsense approach to incentivising data sharing across its research portfolio is ground-breaking: essentially share the data you produce, or lose your research money (cue audible intakes of breath from traditional academic community). It has been a controversial move in some circles, but is a deliberate and unapologetically bold part of their strategy to ensure best output from their publicly funded portfolio. His comment that “…patients can’t eat papers” also resonated strongly: CHC is keen to focus upon tangible impacts on citizens, patients and/or the economy rather than research as the end goal. It was also encouraging to hear members of the international community such as Makoto-san referring to UK based infrastructure including the Salford Lung Study and NIHR BioMedical Research Centres as world-class exemplars in the field. Oh, and Pepper. I loved Pepper.


Gary: As I sat on the panel waiting to present our work with Connected Health Cities Andrew Casey, CEO of BIOTECanada was talking about health data research problems that seemed very familiar: challenges of data quality, geographical silos of data, challenges of information governance and getting permissions to use data for research. When I present our joint achievements across the North of England I know that they are impressive, but they have been achieved within a system that faces the same challenges as Canada, or Japan, or elsewhere. The real difference has been a willingness to come together and believe in finding ways to make what we have work better. Being able to share that lesson, and find more people who also want to share that vision, was inspiring to both the work I am doing back in the UK but also in the international partnerships we hope to build on over the coming years.

Amanda: This trip was full on – packed with opportunity and a total lack of sleep. We met great people, shared exciting ideas and encountered all the same disease burdens in our work regardless of country. We shocked a few with our evidence of the UK North-South health divide (including a few Brits). We spread the message of #DataSavesLives and reciprocity. Above all for me was the space to reflect on our scientific journey and compare it with the global markets. Conclusion: we have come a long way – made possible by a committed team with a shared ethos and wider ecosystem of support who have helped us deliver our message. Other lessons: FaceTime with your family in the middle of (your) night is not conducive to a good night’s sleep but does allow your children to see breath-taking views of Tokyo; Ruth can lose a travel ticket (or phone, or room key) in less than a femtosecond; Gary’s ability to read Chinese is hugely undervalued in our everyday working life; the UK stand (and its after party) is the place to be; and I think I love the Ginza Corridor.

And Finally…

On behalf of Connected Health Cities we would like to say a huge thank you to MedCity, the NHSA, the British Embassy and DIT in Japan, and all the people we met for a worthwhile, stimulating and affirming experience. Truly: teamwork is alive and #datasaveslives.

End of the line: tea ceremony just before flying home, Tokyo


Read more posts...