The 13th Kobe University Brussels European Centre Researchers’ Forum took place on 1 December, for the first time at the VUB Health Campus in Jette. It was also the 6th symposium to be jointly organized between Kobe University and the VUB – a mark of the long and fruitful relationship between our two universities. This years’ event was jointly organized with the VUB Oncology Research Centre Day 2023, in cooperation with ULB-Institut Jules Bordet and the University of Kent. The topic of this forum was cancer research: “Conquering Cancer: A Key Role for EU-Japan Research”.
Kobe University president Prof Masato Fujisawa and VUB vice-rector internationalization Prof. Karin Vanderkerken gave the opening addresses, thereby stressing the need to reinforce collaborations in cancer research across EU, UK and Japan.
During the following open forum joint sessions, the latest developments were presented by 16 top-ranked researchers of the 4 partner institutes, with the sessions being elegantly moderated by the coordinators of the 4 partner institutes. Research was streamlined according to 4 main research themes, representing the common ground for collaborations between the EU-UK partners and Japan: Tumor microenvironment, heterogeneity and plasticity; developments in cutting-edge treatments with focus on immunotherapy, targeted therapies and radiotherapy; Advances in medical technologies: robotics, imaging and AI; social and societal issues: innovations in cancer management, patient empowerment and well-being, and quality of life.
The open forum was attended by some 90 participants including researchers from 5 Belgian universities, representatives from the Mission of Japan to the EU, Anticancer Fund, and representatives from the 4 partner institutes.
The open forum was followed by visits of VUB cancer research laboratories, and, a crucial part of the day, presentations on funding opportunities between the 4 partner institutes with information on regional, national, EU and Japanese sources such as FWO, FNRS, EU Mission Cancer, UKRI, Cancer Research UK, JSPS, and AMED. The importance of this session was highlighted by the VUB vice-rector: ‘If you don’t have funding, all the rest goes. Especially for joint projects this is true.’
The following interactive brokerage sessions with round table discussions according to the four topics provided a platform to explore future collaboration opportunities. The interest in collaborating was shown by the organic merging of the 4 discussion tables into 2 discussion tables. These brokerage sessions were very successful not only in strengthening the desire to work together, but also in generating a number of potential joint projects – the true measure of success for an event like this one.
In this way, this Forum provided a unique opportunity to reinforce the mutual partnerships in many concrete ways:
- in the exchange of cutting-edge research among presenters,
- in the sharing of knowledge – and enthusiasm – with over 50 young researchers and clinicians in the joint session with the ORC day
- and, most importantly, in the development of actual joint projects in the brokerage sessions.
In this way, the event contributed to the wider and far more challenging Mission to ‘Conquer Cancer’.