Site: Biophotonics Information Laboratories, Ltd. (BIL)
Yamagata Prefecture Advanced Technology R&D Center
Yamagata 990-2473, Japan
Date Visited: 15 October 1998
WTEC Attendees: O.R. Zaborsky
- Dr. Masaichi Shinoda, Executive Director, President
- Hideo Sekiguchi, General Manager, Technical Administration
The mission of the Biophotonics Information Laboratories, Ltd. (BIL) is to
understand the various states of life through information gleaned from
biophotonics, the study of light-biological interactions. BIL is an element of
the "Life Support Technology Plan" of Yamagata Prefecture and is intended to
develop the Tohoku region as a center of excellence in science and
The project's objective is the development of life support technologies
through technologies for non-invasively measuring the functions and structures
of living systems at high speed using light. Expected results include the
- Defining the characteristics of biophoton phenomena of cancer cells.
- Studying the active oxygen generating mechanisms of leukocytes. When
completed, the applications are expected to include treatments of patients with
diseases caused by insufficient active oxygen generation.
- Measurement of light scattering through coherent detection imaging
technology based on optical heterodyne technology. Optical computer tomography
(CT) images of hard tissue (teeth and bones) have been obtained that can then
be used in medical diagnostics. With the hand as the model biological system,
optical images have revealed structural details about the joints, bones and
some of the blood vessels. A high-quality image has been achieved in terms of
resolution and contrast.
BIL was founded in March 1993 by 13 firms and several Yamagata Prefecture
organizations and foundations. It is a 6-year joint research project
terminating in 1999, with a planned fund of ¥3.45 billion of which 70% is
invested by the Japan Key Technology Center (JKTC) and 30% by participating
Management at the time of this WTEC visit included Michio Fujisaki, CEO
(Fujitsu), Dr. Masaichi Shinoda, Executive Director and President (Fujitsu
Ltd.) and Mr. Hideo Sekiguchi, General Manager, Technical Administration.
Strong motivation for this project came from Professor Humio Inaba, Tohoku
Institute of Technology, also a Director. Senior technical staff includes K.P.
Chan, B. Devaraj, M. Kobayashi, and J. Miyazaki.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
BIL's research is focused on biophotonic phenomena that include the
- Biophoton emission-spontaneous ultra weak light emission emanating from all
living cells, the result of ongoing biological processes.
- Biological fluorescence-the absorption of light at a certain wavelength
with a re-emittance at a longer wavelength.
- Optical absorption-specific light absorption characteristic of structure
and chemical composition. Differences in absorption can be used to determine
the states of living systems.
- Optical scattering-scattering of light in various directions caused by the
complex and heterogeneous nature of biological systems. Information provided by
scattered and reflected light can be used to identify structural
Research and development work has been focused on the following:
- Sensing and imaging technology for ultra weak light emitted from biological
substances in the visible or near infrared region. In particular, the focus has
been on the characteristics of light emitting sources and their modeling, light
detection, spectroscopy, and imaging. Research on hardware has covered InGaAs
photodiode light receptive elements, polychrometers, acoustic optical tuning
filters, and signal processing technologies such as photon statistics and
- Optical heterodyne technology and coherent detection imaging technology for
the measurement of the functions and structures of living systems. Research in
this category includes performance improvement and functional enhancement,
relation between measuring wavelength and biological functions, computer
tomography imaging technology and applications. Solid state variable wavelength
lasers have been included as a generic technology component.
BIL consists of three laboratories with 21 researchers. The three
laboratories are as follows:
- Biophoton Laboratory
- Device Development Laboratory
- Bio-Imaging Laboratory
In addition, BIL is advised by three committees:
- Technical Evaluation Committee, which convened at the start of the project
and at the end of year 2 and within JKTC
- Technical Advisory Committee, which convenes annually and consists of
experts in relevant technology fields
- Technical subcommittees, which convene when required and consist of
technical specialists from participating organizations
COMPANIES SUPPORTING BIL
The companies supporting BIL are the following:
- Fujitsu, Ltd.
- Yamagata Technopolis Foundation
- Shimadzu Corporation
- NEC Corporation
- Fuji Film Co., Ltd.
- The Tohoku Intelligent Cosmos Promotion Council
- Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc.
- Hitachi Cable, Ltd.
- Fujikura, Ltd.
- The Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
- Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.
- Toshiba Corporation
- Indeco, Inc.
- Kawasaki Electric Corporation
- Kojinkai Hospital
- Tohoku Electronic Industrial Co., Ltd.
- Topcon Yamagata Co., Ltd.
- The Yamagata Bank, Ltd.
- Yonezawa Hamari Chemicals, Ltd.
BIL is dedicated to biophotonics, one of two such organizations formed by
BIL's focus on optical imaging of tissues seems to have been well placed,
and results are quite impressive in that fine details not available by magnetic
resonance imaging can be seen (e.g., structural details of the joint region,
bones and blood vessels).
BIL, while relatively small in terms of personnel, has achieved good results
in technology developments in the biomedical imaging field and also in
publications. The results and data described in the visit have been published
and presented at some leading U.S. meetings (e.g., Gordon Conference).
The motivation for establishing BIL came from a leading local university
professor, Humio Inaba, who also has been instrumental in providing key
researchers to this effort (e.g., Dr. Kimpui Chan, Dr. B. Devaraj).
The application of biophotonics to biomedicine is receiving highest
priority, but applications are also being pursued in agriculture, an area of
local interest (farmers).
Economic development is a major objective of this project, more than other
JKTC projects in the biotech area visited. BIL is part of a larger industrial
park, the Yamagata Prefecture Advanced Technology R&D Center.
Published: September 1999; WTEC