As reported in your News story “Institute doomed by loss of interest in basics” (Nature 430, 282; 200410.1038/430282a), Japan's Biomolecular Engineering Research Institute (BERI) will disband sometime next year. Unfortunately, for various reasons, including the fact that the board of directors had not yet met to finalize its decision, I was unable to comment at the time.
During the past 18 years, BERI has achieved much in the field of protein structure and functional analysis. Many scientists starting at BERI have gone on to excellent positions in industry or academia. BERI has been highly reputed both at home and abroad and it has amply succeeded in attaining its original goals.
But in changing times that increasingly call for research geared towards practical developments, it has become difficult to reconcile the interests of basic research with varied corporate needs.
BERI's project grants from the government have fallen by half during recent years, increasing the burden on industry. And a government evaluation on 25 March this year, while praising the projects' technological merits, criticized their wider applicability.
As chairman of the board of directors and a founding member of BERI, I find it regrettable but unavoidable that the nine companies supporting BERI have decided, in consultation with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to disband it.
Many important issues remain, such as how to bring ongoing projects to fruition and how to support the relocation of experienced researchers and staff. I predict that there will be many employers eager to take them in.