The Road to Biomedical Revolution through Silicon Valley

The following is the summary of a breakout session that was part of the 2016 Annual Conference.



  • Moderator: Phillip C. Yang, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine (Cardiovascular Medicine), Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Fumiaki Ikeno, M.D., Program Director (U.S.) Japan Biodesign, Stanford Biodesign; Medical Director/Research Associate, Experimental Interventional Laboratory, Div. of Cardiology, Stanford University
  • Tyler Marciniak, Corporate Affairs Director & Head of Product Communications, Astellas
  • Kyoko Watanabe, Managing Director, DEFTA Partners


This panel explored medical innovations, from big data to personalized medicine to precision medicine, and showed that Silicon Valley plays a role in biomedical development from concept to commercialization (or, “to bedside”). The speakers shared how Silicon Valley built on Japanese technologies, launched new technologies for Japan, and integrated improvements from Japan. 

The moderator, Dr. Phil Yang, opened with a case study on heart failure. Through the application of revolutionary iPS discoveries from Japan’s Nobel Laureate, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, to create beating cells to inject into a patient’s own heart, he emphasized the trend towards patient-specific treatments.

Venture investor Kyoko Watanabe of DEFTA spoke about investing in innovative technologies that extend “health span.” She outlined the convergence of IT with biopharma, creating a new industry with possibilities from innovative reimbursement systems to iPS-derived applications at the cellular level for regenerative medicine. She pointed out that Japan’s technology and manufacturing acumen, combined with Silicon Valley application development showed great promise, especially when combined with an expedited approval process.

Japanese pharmaceutical Astellas’ Tyler Marciniak shared his company’s recent “C3 Prize” to broaden U.S. awareness of the Astellas brand while generating leads for innovations to change cancer care. The innovation challenge included a “shark tank” at the Stanford Medical School, and yielded 118 submissions from 15 countries.

Finally, Dr. Fumi Ikeno spoke about the role of Silicon Valley’s technology in addressing the dire unmet needs associated with aging, which Japan has been experiencing for decades (he described his first job caring for elderly in a rural Japanese village as “back to the future”). Dr. Ikeno gave examples of ways breakthrough technologies can help address unmet needs and reduce health care costs. However, he cautioned that Japan lacks a medtech ecosystem, placing an even higher value on trans-Pacific collaboration.

The audience greatly appreciated the presentations, and pressed on the need to include regulatory organizations in innovation collaboration to foster innovation and avoid Japan’s “valley of death” in biotech and healthtech innovation due to regulatory constraints. At the close, the speakers spoke to the ways that culture also factors in innovation, whether it’s Silicon Valley’s openness to diversity or the Japanese culture influencing operations in the States. In inspiring closing remarks, Dr. Ikeno shared that both Stanford and the U.S.-Japan Council embrace his uniqueness, encouraging him to continue to be a bridge between the two countries to address our time’s compelling unmet needs in healthcare.