Premed Spotlight: Biotech Research Internship in Japan

By March 13, 2020 March 21st, 2020 Premed Spotlight
Premed Spotlight - Biotech Research Internship

Written by: Nicholas Nguyen, Northeastern University

Hitachi Central Research Lab in Japan

During my senior year of college, I worked at Hitachi’s Central Research Laboratory, a biotechnology company, in Japan. My main project was the Lumione, a device capable of measuring biological contaminants in medicine. Just the year prior, I had been studying typhoid fever and cholera at a large academic hospital. The dangers of infectious diseases were impressed upon me and ignited an interest in the field. With hopes of pursuing medical research in the future, I wanted to expand beyond academic science as I had done up until this point. Understanding healthcare industry research, how industry operates and what motivates them, was vital in a future in which I am potentially developing diagnostics or working on vaccines.  Thus, I accepted a role in the Healthcare Innovation team at Hitachi for a biotech research internship. I packed my things from Northeastern University in Boston and moved to Japan. I was excited!

Biotech Research Internship: Healthcare Innovation Team

My primary responsibility was developing new ideas to improve the Lumione’s detection system. The machine relied on accurate measurements of a sample’s ATP, an energy molecule found in nearly all organisms, to detect contamination. Specialized medications called regenerative medicine expired quickly and benefited from the quick nature of an ATP-based system. Pushing the Lumione project meant reviewing the current scientific literature and the work being done in nearby research laboratories in Tokyo and other cities. Through this biotech research internship, I learned how to quickly establish weaknesses in the product and potential avenues for fixing them. In addition, I read the public patents and manuals of our competitor’s product to further understand how our device measured up. In addition, I compiled news articles and government documents on the regulations by the FDA, European Union, and Asia. This established the governments’ expectations of how well the Lumione should perform. Accompanying my supervisor to the machining facilities, I witnessed how powerful having dedicated services can be to research. The machinists and engineers had assessed our recommended changes and clarified any shortcomings as well as next steps. Months of developing ideas and testing them fortunately led to a breakthrough towards the end of the internship. I had potentially found a way to increase the detection capabilities of the Lumione. The research team will continue to improve the device and its ability to ensure that medications are safe for patients.