What we do

"Inspiring Cell Technologies"

Our company was founded to develop, optimize, and commercialize novel therapies for respiratory diseases through new science based on "pulmonary stem cell biology," with a particular focus on human iPS cell differentiation technology that can readily replicate in vivo pathophysiology. Emerging infectious diseases that affect the respiratory tract are not only regularly endemic, but also, rather unfortunately, turn pandemic, as can be seen with the recent COVID-19. Owing to both the exposure to the intruding pathogens and endogenous physical stress of respiration (humans breathe about 20,000 to 30,000 times per day), the lungs tend to be vulnerable to acute and chronic diseases – including, in later years of life, lung cancer.

Despite the obvious necessity for therapeutic relief, there are distinctively fewer medication options available for respiratory diseases. One of the key reasons behind this is the lack of effective drug discovery tools. Conventionally, in vitro models using organ-specific cells and in vivo models using rodents such as mice and rats are frequently used for drug discovery purposes. However, in the respiratory field, in vitro cell culture is difficult to attain, and rodent lungs are known to be too distinct from human lungs, thus yielding very limited insight into how the potential therapeutics may work in humans. These difficulties lead to the significantly lower success rate for respiratory drug candidates compared to those for other organs - as can be inferred from the fact that Phase 2 studies for respiratory organs succeed only at around half the rate seen in other therapeutic areas. In other words, key components for successful translational research are blatantly lacking.

Based on our proprietary stem cell differentiation technologies specifically needed for the respiratory organs, we are the first team in the world to mass produce and stably cultivate human respiratory epithelial cells that are essentially equivalent to living human organs. We hope to provide a pathophysiologically-relevant, human-origin platform that makes it possible to predict and select therapeutic candidates that are expected to be highly effective when ultimately used in patients. We will further enhance the predictability and reliability of our model by combining the "human lung (disease) model" created by our technologies with advanced AI analytics and (sub)cellular devices, thus providing a platform that brings forth a drug discovery process with a vastly stronger prediction capabilities and dramatically efficient screening. By accelerating the development of new drugs and therapies utilizing our very scalable discovery and screening tools, we will dramatically accelerate the progress towards a future in which all respiratory diseases are curable and "everyone can breathe deeply.

Who we are

Yuki Yamamoto, M.D., Ph.D. / CEO

Yuki YamamotoYuki Yamamoto is co-founder of HiLung Inc., and serves as CEO responsible for business portfolio and R&D. After joining Kyoto University in 2012, he most recently successfully managed the two projects (Kyoto University Incubation Program, and JST START) spanning over three years that yielded the innovative technologies, of which he is a co-inventor, enabling generation of human lung cells from stem cells (including iPS and ES cells). Having transitioned to his current role, he has led HiLung to build on his immediate successes to deliver novel respiratory solutions and patient value. He graduated Yokohama City University School of Medicine, and received his Ph.D. in Kyoto University, and has also been a pulmonologist for 15 years.

Tets Nagamoto, M.D. / Board member

Tets NagamotoTets Nagamoto is co-founder of HiLung Inc., and serves as board member responsible for corporate affairs, licensing, and global business development. He had long specialized in life sciences industry at leading consulting firms, assisting clients incorporate innovative sciences, technologies, and businesses into their global strategy and operations. Also leveraging his earlier experience at a think tank focusing on international trade regulations, he has more recently been engaged in translating academic biomedical research outputs into clinical and business successes, formulating regulatory, licensing, and business strategies for multiple startups in Japan and the US. He earned his M.D. from Kyoto University Faculty of Medicine and is also an active pediatrician.

Shunsuke Ito, Ph. D. / Board member

Shunsuke ItoShunsuke Ito is co-founder of HiLung Inc., and serves as board member responsible for strategy, financing, and operations. He has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry developing and managing advanced novel technologies (stem cell biology, artificial intelligence, and gene editing) and regenerative medicine. As a neurodegenerative disease researcher at a major Japanese pharma, he had led stem cell-based drug discovery and regenerative medicine projects. He then expanded his breadth at a prominent consulting firm, where he helped pharma and public sector clients with their business strategy, scientific strategy, and rulemaking. He graduated Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine and holds a Ph.D. in medical science.

Masatoshi Hagiwara, M. D., Ph. D. / Scientific Advisor
Professor, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University