In 2018, Avex partnered with HIROTSU Bio Science to form Avex & Hirotsu Bio Empower LLC. With one partner being in the entertainment industry, and the other being a bio-venture that uses new technology known as N-NOSE for early detection of first stage cancer, it is not that easy to see the vision behind this teaming up. At first glance, that is.
Representatives Yasuto Hoyamatsu from Avex and Takaaki Hirotsu from HIROTSU Bio Science and developer of N-NOSE, sat down for an interview to talk about their vision. Take a look at the interview as well as a report on the charity concert LIVE EMPOWER CHILDREN 2020 held on February 15th (Sat) of this year.
The impact of N-NOSE,
cancer screening test.
The power of entertainment
Hoyamatsu “The founding of Avex & Hirotsu Bio Empower actually started with the discovery of cancer in my eldest son a few years ago. It was critical stage cancer but surprisingly, and thankfully, he recovered completely. After seeing just how many children were suffering from childhood cancer, I asked a doctor about it. They said “80% of childhood cancer cases can be treated when discovered early.” When I heard this, I remember feeling terribly regretful. “Why didn’t I discover my son’s cancer earlier,” I asked myself. It was around this time that a friend introduced me to Doctor Hirotsu, who was doing research on early cancer detection using tiny worms called nematodes. It had never hit me, that children ought to be screened for cancer too. But with the high-precision and low cost of N-NOSE, I was positive this technology would be a game changer.”
Hoyamatsu’s son’s battle with cancer instilled him with a new vision for early stage detection. At the same time, Hirotsu was in the midst of finding the best way to release this radical technology, a highly accurate way of distinguishing between cancer affected and cancer free users from a single drop of urine, into the world. What potential did these two uncover when meeting for the first time?
Hirotsu “Homatsuya-san and I met just as N-NOSE was coming into completion. Our biggest hurdle at the time was “how do we get everyone to know about this technology?” The reality is, that just like the Pink Ribbon movement that arose in the awareness of breast cancer, even well planned campaigns for health and self-help failed to drastically increase voluntary screening percentages. N-NOSE is epoch-making technology. This is true. But that doesn’t mean people will automatically know about it. I thought that the conventional way of making posters and putting them up around town was not going to cut it. That there would have to be some new way to get the message across. It was then that Hoyamatsu-san invited me to a-nation. The enthusiasm in the audience was simply overwhelming. It instantly hit me, that if we had this kind of broadcasting power, reaching the young generation regarding the importance of testing for cancer would be achievable.”
At a-nation, doctor Hirotsu was convinced of entertainment as a form of broadcasting power. Using the nematodes’ sense of smell to detect cancer is easily one of the inventions of the century. We asked Hirotsu the story behind what it took to complete the development process.
Hirotsu “I wasn't a doctor originally. I was a nematode researcher. That’s why I knew how good their sense of smell was. But these worms, these living creatures were practically only used in basic research and no-one had ever thought to use them as a part of world changing technology. It first hit me when I was pondering cancer detecting canines. There are living things in this world that can smell cancer cells. Some, however, like dogs, have a limited attention span. And when you factor in the cost of raising them, implementing them as a solution becomes unrealistic. That’s when I remembered the powerful noses on these nematodes. “If dogs can do it, why can we try it out on these worms,” I thought. It was as simple as that. And in no time, results were coming back positive and we published our academic paper on the findings. It goes without saying that these were only initial research results and just because some research goes well in the beginning, it doesn’t rule out chance. In order to prove that these nematodes were actually picking up on the scent of cancer, we had to up the numbers. On another note, the screening could be done by hand in a research laboratory, but when it came to realistic global implementation, it would have to be successfully automated by machines. When pondering how to solve these two problems, I discovered it would be nearly impossible as a professor. So I quit my position at the university and started a company. ”
fight against cancer
Vigorous hopes conveyed
top artist performances.
Hoyamatsu and Hirotsu’s encounter became the catalyst behind the incorporating of Avex & Hirotsu Bio Empower LCC., in 2018. Their first step in overcoming the framework of conventional entertainment came in the form of a concert; LIVE EMPOWER CHILDREN 2020. Just before the unprecedented “entertainment and health” event kicked off, Hirotsu spoke in an interview to express the following.
Hirotsu “I’ve been speaking with Hoyamatsu-san for roughly 2 years now about LIVE EMPOWER CHILDREN 2020, and it has finally come to life. Things have gone by so fast. I’ve realized that no matter how amazing the technology you make is, if you don’t do something impactful to get it across, it’s going nowhere. It doesn’t even enter people’s radars. Annually about 2,000 to 3,000 children suffer from cancer. Compare that to cancer in adults and it’s not that much. But on the other hand I think it is harder to approach. Children don’t think they’ll get cancer, and parents, they don’t ever think their child is going to get cancer either. But there is a need to get it across to people through events like this that childhood cancer is very real and that anyone can be affected by it. N-NOSE has just started being implemented in clinical trials. The best thing about it so far is its pain-free, stress-free nature, making it perfect for children. I want as many people as possible to know that this screening is perfect for children.”
Hoyamatsu reflected on his meeting with one special girl, a meeting that would directly lead to the concert.
Hoyamatsu “A while back I met with a young girl who was battling childhood cancer. She was a fan of a particular Avex artist so I arranged for a signed message board to give to her as a present. On it were the words “Hurry up and get better so you can come to my concert.” This one little message had quite the impact because the next day her parents wrote to me to say that their daughter who was finding it hard to be positive through all the hardships of cancer treatment, was now actively facing the treatments with a hopeful attitude. That’s when it hit me. I finally understood the power of entertainment, its essence, per-say. If it weren’t for that girl, we may not have come up with the plan for LIVE EMPOWER CHILDREN 2020.”
Thanks to the hopes of these two individuals, the concert was held on the official international childhood cancer day, February 15th. The show was comprised of eleven artists; Every Little Thing, Kumi Koda, moumoon, PIKOTARO, Da-iCE, Yusaku Kiyama, Sunplaza Nakano-kun, Shinji Nira from Wakadanna, Hiroya Ozaki, DEEP SQUAD, Ryota Iwakoshi (opening act), and joined by MCs Hiroyuki Amano from Kyaeen, and announcer Sayaka Masuyama from Nippon Broadcasting. The two MCs pleased the nearly 3,500- person crowd that gathered at the Tokyo International Forum with their meticulous microphone talent.
After the opening act, music label LDH’s very own chorus group DEEP SQUAD performed Get With You and ~Tejina~. Intertwined with a brief introduction raising awareness for early cancer detection by the MCs, the group captivated the audience with their amazing harmony. Next on stage was PIKOTARO. With over 300 million views on his YouTube video PPAP (Pen Pineapple Apple Pen), he instantaneously grabbed the hearts of everyone there before performing his new song I’m Standing. His surreal, almost skit-like performance had a most indescribable addictive element to it. His last tune PPAP LIVE EMPOWER Version featured Sanrio character My Melody and the Aflac duck for an innocent heartwarming moment that filled the entire venue.
After a light and feel-good dance number by Da-iCE, singer songwriter and current cancer-battler Yusaku Kiyama hit the stage. Once the intro to Shiawase wa kokoni (Happiness is here) began — the theme song for the cancer awareness project Next Ribbon Project — the atmosphere turned calm and peaceful, and finally when his hit tune Home began, you could see many people in the audience sing along as Kiyama moved the masses with an emotional performance.
Fifth to hit the stage was Hiroya Ozaki. After he grabbed the hearts of the audience with is lyrics to Someday Smile, “Some day, we will find happiness for sure, we are living life today on our way there,” he performed I LOVE YOU, the golden hit by his father Yutaka Ozaki. The straightforward unclad reality of the song surely echoed in the ears of the children watching the live performance from their hospital beds.
Following Shinji Nira from Wakadanna and his heated one-guitar performance, was moumoon performing her song Niji (Rainbow) for the first time. This song is a recently created collaboration between moumoon’s own YUKA and MASAKI who rearranged the lyrics of young Asahi Kato, a young boy who wrote over 500 songs while fighting cancer. For this event, three of Asahi’s classmates joined the stage to take part in a performance with The Light Project Special Orchestra (Hikari no Purojekuto Tokubetsu Okesutora).
After moumoon, Sunplaza Nakano-kun took the stage as the 9th performer, and with his good friend and guitarist Papala Kawai, performed Tabibito Yo ~The Longest Journey~ his signature song Runner (Heisei, year 30 ver.), and Bakufu Slump’s hit, one after the other, getting the audience hype.
It was a moment where everyone felt the mysterious power that music possesses, the power that is handed down from person to person, that weaves lives together through encounters.
Photo donated by Asahi Newspaper
The performances were also aired live for children in the hospital who were unable to attend the show. Children at The National Center for Child Health and Development in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, watched the TV screen as the night unfolded live.
Tenth to hit the stage, Kumi Koda had the whole venue on their feet. She even talked to the children at the National Center for Child Heath and Development directly during her talk with the MCs. It was a symbolic moment that really captured the show’s theme “empower.”
Every Little Thing closed the show with their song START. At least that’s what they wanted people to think. The moment the song ended, all of the artists that night came back out on stage for a special performance of We Are The World, the charity song made famous by its numerous contributors such as Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie among many others. It was a rare collaborative / co-rivalry on stage that easily became the climax of the night.
Sometimes with a soft touch, sometimes with a strong supportive hand on the back, these 11 artists/groups made for a powerful and moving performance that will surely continue to support the many children and families suffering from childhood cancer in hospitals across the country.
Shining light on
thanks to Avex knowhow.
It has been only five years since the discovery of the technology behind N-NOSE, an exceptionally short period from start to pragmatic implementation. Upon witnessing this movement, Hoyamatsu realized just how much potential lies in cooperation between entertainment and healthcare.
Hoyamatsu “It took only five years for N-Nose to reach where it is now, and according to Doctor Hirotsu, there are plenty of other developments in research in the universities throughout Japan. But rather than aiming to get these researches to see the light of day, too much focus must be placed on first obtaining funding for research. Social implementation has to take a back seat. Some researchers give up to join corporations, while others look for facilities overseas. Doctor Hirotsu says he wants to support the young researchers out there. I may be in a different industry, but I’ve also been a part of management and the big topic you must always face is how to get the new music of artists out into the world. If we look at researchers as artists and their research results as their art, then there are plenty of things I can do with my experience in management to help shine light on their creations.”
A new challenge has begun for Avex. Their seasoned knowhow in artist management will be used as feedback in a completely different realm — healthcare. No matter how good an idea may be, if it fails to gain people’s attention, it is very difficult to turn it into a business. Consider their objective, “Spreading research and results out into the world.” Take a closer look and one will see just how well this project structure coincides with Avex’s wealthy experience with “artist” and “managing.” When both sides realized this, that’s when the cogs began to turn.
This encounter between artist manager and scientist, two vastly different professions, fills one with hope and excitement for what the future holds.
HIROTSU BIO SCIENCE INC.
President & CEO
AVEX&HIROTSU BIO EMPOWER LLC.
CEO & President