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Ten years at GSC

10 Years at RIKEN GSC and Novel Challenges in Genomics

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Genomic Sciences Research Complex - its significance for Japan's future
Dr. Akiyoshi Wada

Japan has the second-largest GNP in the world, and along with Europe and the US forms one part of a global triple pole. Good fortune dictates a certain noblesse oblige, and the world expects us to contribute to mankind’s culture and learning without any regard for immediate profit or loss.

Some scientific data ‘decays,’ whilst some remains unspoiled. The meaning of the former dissipates with every passing year, but the unspoiled data is exactly what it is that we have been steadily accumulating at the GS Center. DNA base sequences and the atomic coordinates of protein have remained unchanged for millions of years, just waiting for brilliant researchers to discover their meaning. If we are ignorant or shortsighted about the essential nature of learning, people will make artless comments such as "exhaustive measurements are meaningless," or "decide on your target measurement and stick to that." Behaving as though the unexplored and fertile meadows of science have actually been charted by dismissing them through shallow knowledge is insolent, harmful and unprofitable. Life is endlessly nebulous and magnificent.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the greatest old tome on strategy, teaches us thus: “Know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the opponent but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If you are ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.” I would liken the 'enemy' that Sun Tzu writes of to omic space - the physical interactions and chemical reactions that are the manifestation of genomic data, and which represents a treasure chest of enormous enlightenment and strategies that have survived the global environment. Without understanding this vastness, utter defeat in global competition is inevitable. The entity described as 'yourself' in the quotation above represents the power of physical and chemical measurements and mathematical analysis. This power has been enhanced in recent years with the addition of the trusty X-ray Free Electron Laser¹ and the Next-Generation Supercomputer with a speed of 10 petaflops².

I pointed out these two opposing entities upon the launch of the GS Center in 1998, and made them a bedrock of the center's management. Ten years later the rigid organization of the Center has been expansively reorganized to meet the meanderings of science. As Charles Darwin wrote: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” This basic recognition of these two entities has been taken aboard by the GS Complex, and the flexibility of this organization will enable the comradely collaboration of researchers from throughout Japan. The GS Complex will probably go on to expand the GS Center's achievements and traditions - the omic space concept, and the development of unspoiled data - and make its presence felt in Japan and the rest of the world.

To all of you who are trying to understand life from its very roots - let's add the name of this 21st century Research Complex to Riken's traditions!

¹ SPring-8 Joint Project for XFEL website: http://www.riken.jp/xfel/

² The Next-Generation Supercomputer R&D Center (NSC) website: http://www.nsc.riken.jp/