International cooperation: Inauguration of RIKEN Outpost Labs in Luxembourg

Top Japanese research consolidates ties with Luxembourg: Representatives of the Japanese RIKEN Institute, the University of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg Institute for Health (LIH) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which the three institutions declare their intention to further strengthen future scientific cooperation. The fundamental elements are the so-called joint RIKEN Outpost Labs in Luxembourg, where senior scientists from the RIKEN Institute will undertake research in the Grand Duchy, intensifying their collaboration with Luxembourg science. 

Photo: University of Luxembourg

In the RIKEN Outpost Labs, the Japanese scientists in collaboration with Luxembourgish partners will first carry out research projects on the topic of the “gut and brain” and on related diseases. Recently, scientists have found that in people with neurodegenerative diseases, the state of the immune system and the composition of the microbial community of the gut – the microbiome – are altered. Among other things, the projects with RIKEN will focus on clarifying how these observations relate to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. 

RIKEN – a leading international research institution in Japan

RIKEN is a leading international research institution in Japan, recognised worldwide and with a wide range of research disciplines – from developmental biology to quantum physics. Why strengthen the presence of RIKEN in Luxembourg?

Claude Meisch, Minister for Higher Education and Research, explains it in a few words: “Science in Luxembourg has become increasingly visible on the world map in recent years. Now we must develop our international network and are pleased to have succeeded so resoundingly with RIKEN.”

Several Luxembourg research institutions have intensified collaboration with RIKEN under the auspices of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and supported by the FNR. After the FNR launched an exchange programme in 2016, where young scientists from Luxembourg regularly visited the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences (RIKEN-IMS) for research in Japan, high-profile symposia followed – first in 2017 in Japan and 2018 in Luxembourg.

“We have always received strong political support at the highest level on these occasions in both countries – that is one of the reasons we have made great progress in this important collaboration.” – Marc Schiltz, Secretary General of the FNR.

In July 2018, for example, at the joint symposium in Luxembourg an LCSB seminar room was ceremonially christened “RIKEN” and further measures were agreed to deepen the cooperation. With concrete consequences, as pointed out by FNR ATTRACT Fellow Prof. Paul Wilmes, head of the Eco-Systems Biology Group at the LCSB, where he is responsible for the cooperation with RIKEN:

“We are very pleased that by providing the RIKEN Outpost Labs at LCSB and LIH, scientists from RIKEN are now also able to conduct research in Luxembourg. Due to the geographical proximity, knowledge transfer and exchange can be intensified.” – Prof Paul Wilmes

“I am sure that this will stimulate research enormously on both sides. The performance of Luxembourg research will continue to improve.” – Prof. Ulf Nehrbass, Director of the LIH

“Collaborations with LCSB and LIH are a great addition to our research activities, particularly, in the fields of neuro-immunology and data-driven medical sciences.” – Prof. Tadashi Yamamoto, director of RIKEN-IMS

MoU between RIKEN and the FNR renewed

On 9 July 2019, the FNR and RIKEN also renewed their MoU to emphasise the already good collaboration. The original MoU was signed in October 2015. Via this collaboration, the FNR has already supported five AFR Bilateral projects (3 Postdoc, 2 PhD), as well as two INTER Mobility projects, granted to Dr Mahesh Desai from the LIH and Joanna Baginska (LCSB, Paul Wilmes lab at the time).

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