About JSOT / On Our Society

On Our Society

Hitoshi Endou MD. Ph.D
8th President
CEO, J-Pharma Co., Ltd.

Takemi Yoshida The Japanese Society of Toxicology derives its origin from a semi-private toxicology study group operated by members of the Science Council of Japan. This group was then organized into the Society of Study of Toxic Effects in 1975, which was renamed the Japanese Society of Toxicological Sciences in 1981, and then the Japanese Society of Toxicology in 1997 as we call it today. Thus our society’s name has changed several times reflecting the social conditions of the times both at home and abroad as well as progress made in fields of science and technology. For an outline of our activities, I would like you to refer to our website.

Our society (its predecessor) was first organized by the “academe” - the Society of Study of Toxic Effects created as an interdisciplinary academic organization in the realm of life science. The 1960’s through 1970’s witnessed upheavals seeking university reforms not only in Japan but overseas as well. In Japan, campus riots in almost all universities nationwide were triggered by the university-wide student movement at the University of Tokyo stemming from the punishment of reformist students at the School of Medicine. At the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Medicine, for example, the focus of greatest conflict was the field of clinical medicine which faced a number of problems. However, response to these problems by the administrators concerned was so inadequate that they decided to shelve their clinicians’ official entry into the Society of Study of Toxic Effects. In those days there were a number of clinical toxicoses, including the case of thalidomide side effects, Minamata and Itai-itai diseases, SMON and Kanemi Oil poisoning. In effect, however, clinical medicine researchers did little, although they were supposed to be the vital driving force in the fight against such drug-derived poisoning cases. Meanwhile, meetings of the Japan-Korea Joint Seminar on Toxicology had been held on a regular basis. This was later dissolved and developed into the Asian Society of Toxicology. Despite such a positive development, the first meeting of the Asian Society of Toxicology could not be held jointly with the Japanese Society of Poisoning which was organized with the participation of many specialists from first-aid medicine. If successfully organized jointly, the meeting would have provided a momentum for the future merger of the Japanese Society of Poisoning with the Japanese Society of Toxicological Sciences.

The systematic participation of the “industry” sector marked a vital turning point in the development of our society. In the latter half of the 1980’s, annual scientific meetings of the Japanese Society of Toxicological Sciences attracted such a small number of participants that many even expressed a serious concern as to whether to continue the scientific meetings or not. But support from the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association made it possible for us to tide over the crisis. The association’s Basic Research Division was kind enough to set the venue and date of its annual assembly to those of our annual scientific meeting. This enabled us to secure many participants in the annual scientific meeting on an ongoing basis while also helping us to enrich the substance of the meeting. These improvements also made it possible for us to organize the 4th International Congress on Toxicology in Tokyo in 1986. Participation of the “industry” sector also gave rise to still another improvement. Formerly it had been an established practice to elect our society’s board members such as directors and auditors as well as annual meeting chairmen from the “academe” sector only, but now participation from the “industry” sector came to be encouraged instead of confining candidates to the “academe.”

The acceleration of international collaboration in pharmaceutical development and the globalization of scientific pursuits inevitably led to the participation of the “government” sector. Events along this trend occurred in quite a natural course of development, eliminating the need for any special consideration. The most encouraging sign above all was the positive participation in our society of researchers from the National Institute of Health Sciences, which enabled us to establish the Diplomate of the Japanese Society of Toxicology (D.J.S.T.) qualifying examination system. At the same time, our society became powerful enough to publish textbooks and a toxicology dictionary as references for toxicology. In addition, our society grew into an entity that can now exert influences in diverse fields. For example, we were requested by the government to screen judges who are commissioned to allocate the government’s research subsidies, including scientific research subsidies from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology. Furthermore, some of our members were invited to join in the large-scale national research project for Toxicogenomics which encompasses our society’s main research theme. All these events attest to the fact that our society is increasingly coming to the fore with ever-greater capabilities and influence.

As an organization whose activities have a number of interfaces with society, chances are the Japanese Society of Toxicology will sometimes face difficulties in management and operations. Issues arise such as the recognition of pollution-related diseases and establishment of environmental conservation standards, for example. For these, there is relatively more room for politics to step in, and it is not always possible for us to respond with solutions based on our unanimous agreement. As such, it is justly reasonable to maintain the scientific perspective in dealing with these issues.

Toxicology is an extremely interdisciplinary field of science. While we believe that the future of humankind and pursuit of an ideal social structure should be supported by science, we are not quite sure whether our current capabilities will suffice as a support. Accordingly, the key to achieving this goal depends on how we can incorporate humane studies including ethics as well as the above-mentioned clinical medicine. Today, academic societies in Japan are becoming increasingly subdivided by so-called vertical organization. By contrast, what the Japanese Society of Toxicology aims to be in the near future seems to be an organization with functions for horizontal integration.