Napa Valley Wine Auction


I left Haneda Airport shortly after midnight on the 7th of June, to head for the Napa Valley in San Francisco. I was particularly excited about this trip because I had been invited to the wine auction that is held there.

I reached a little late for dinner. I met up with old friends and made new acquaintances as the evening lazily flowed by. There were more stars in the sky than one could ever imagine seeing in the sky above Tokyo.

The next morning, we were taken on a guided tour of the winery by our host, before the auction that was being held later in the afternoon. The blazing sun beat down on us, and the temperature hovered around the 100°F mark as we made our way to the auction venue.

There were about 50 Auction items, with price tags ranging from upwards of 100,000 US$ to one item for more than 800,000 US$. I excused myself when the 40th item or so was being auctioned, and and by then, around 3 million US$ had been raised. The proceeds would be going to support the local hospitals, one that I visited on my way here, and to support youth activities.

The next day, I enjoyed a round of golf at Napa, before heading to Appleton in the evening to visit some friends. It took a 90-minute drive on the highway through a landscape dotted with wineries. I stayed at The Rose Hotel, a small, cozy and comfortable hotel in a small town. Although these small towns may epitomise the American way of life, a city boy like me would not be able to bear spending more than a week here!

The temperature outside remained near the exhaustingly hot above 100°F mark. Apparently, it was a heatwave, a sign of the climate change that we are experiencing.

I was also told stories of how this area was the birthplace of the now-world-famous Californian wine.

The One year anniversary of the GHIT


The GHIT is an acronym for the Global Health Innovation Technology Fund, the first of its kind where the public and the private sector join hands in order to tackle global health issues. It was started a year ago, on June 1st.

So, what’s so special about it? I believe it is the fact that this initiative provides a structure where it is possible to supplement the strengths of Japan by dealing with its weaknesses. The strengths I am referring to here are the core technologies and chemical compounds that Japanese pharmaceutical companies have to offer the world, but which are still ‘seeds’ requiring nurturing.

On the other hand, the internal obstacles which mire efforts to make these strengths viable and competitive on the world stage are the so-called weaknesses. These include the limiting of hiring to only people straight out of college, an organisational structure that arranges itself on the basis of seniority rather than ability. The failure to encourage a corporate culture that embraces opposing views and constructive criticism is another reason why Japanese firms are lagging behind on a global scale. Put simply, there is a problem with a certain mindset that the Japanese organisation has.

Another thing that makes GHIT unique is its funding structure. Five large pharmaceutical companies make an initial investment over a span of 5 years, the Gates Foundation matches this amount, and the Japanese government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare matches the total investment of these two, meaning that taxes paid by Japanese citizens also comes into play.

Although I had not been involved in the setting up of this unique schema I was asked to be the representative director and chair in the final stages. The reason why I was asked to do so, as any one who regularly visits my site may surmise, is the fact that the GHIT is international in nature. The board of trustees and the auditing body is composed half of Japanese and half of non-Japanese members, with representatives appointed by the Gates Foundation also included within the council members.

This setup, as keen readers may also have noticed, is slightly different from the more conventional Japanese approach of public-private-academic partnership, in the sense that the Gates Foundation is involved, lending the whole undertaking more open to the world.

The team put together under GHIT has worked hard and the efforts have paid off; there has been tremendous progress in its first year, I believe. The activities of the GHIT have been reported overseas in papers like The Economist, The Lancet, and the Financial Times.

The meeting of the Board of Trustees was held in Tokyo, June 6th, one year after its inception.. The review from the council members was also very positive.

After the evening reception, I went to Haneda. I was on my way to San Francisco.

TEDxTokyo, The ACP Japan Chapter, and WEF Japan; Heralding the Change for Tomorrow


TEDxTokyo, which started in 2009, is now into its 6th year. Although TEDx has collaborated with many institutions over the past few years in the world, it all started here in Tokyo. From a conversation with my friends Patrick Newell and Todd Porter, this project has developed over the years in to the IMPACT Japan Project.

This year too, we had many interesting speakers at the TEDxTokyo, making for and enjoyable evening. You can catch the proceedings on the website.

Excusing myself from the reception held later in the evening, I headed for Kyoto, where a conference was being held, the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians Japan Chapter (ACPJC) (1). This congress was set up with the expressed purpose of nurturing world class talent in the clinical medicine by a group of dedicated young physicians who had received clinical training primarily in the US. Although this conference had started on the 31st, I was attending the TEDxTokyo, so I was able to participate only on the Day 2, 1st June.

I arrived in Kyoto just in time to join my friends for a second round of drinks, in a small bar that was quintessential Kyoto. I had a rousing conversation with my friends from my days as a clinical.

The next day, the second day of the conference, was attended by more than 600 physicians and interns (in Japanese) as the interesting sessions continued. The immediate past President of the ACP, Dr. Molly Cooke, was also in attendance.

I returned to Tokyo that evening to attend the World Economic Forum Japan to be held the next day. Here too, I caught up with many people, and we also had many stimulating discussions.

These 3 days were spent grasping the extent of the new generation of young people who were making their presence felt. This is a very heartening trend.

Schedule – June 2014

SCA International Conference on “Future Earth: Research for Global Sustainability and a Holistic Unverstanding of Sustainable Development in Asia”
Keynote Speech 1 “Uncertain Times, Changning Principles, Quo Vadis?”
Date & Time: June 18, 2014(Wed) 9:20-9:50
Panel Discussion “Future Earth: Global Sustainability and a Holistic Understanding of Sustainable Development in Asia”
Date & Time: June 19, 2014(Thu) 14:00-15:30
Venue: Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

14th SCA Conference
Phone: (603) 6203 0633 Fax: (603) 6203 0634