MURAGAKI Yoshihiro, Professor and Director of the Center for Advanced Medical Engineering Research & Development

Kobe University will establish a new “Department of Medical Device Engineering” in April 2025 for the development of medical devices through the fusion of medicine and engineering. The tentatively-titled new department will have a special focus on education, especially through integration with the medical device engineering major established in April last year in the Graduate School of Medicine. Building on the experience and knowledge gained from the joint development with industry of “Hinotori,” the first surgical robot produced in Japan, the department’s aim will be to cultivate human resources to lead the development of cutting-edge medical devices “made in Kobe” through collaboration among industry, government and academia. We interviewed MURAGAKI Yoshihiro, professor and director of the Center for Advanced Medical Engineering Research & Development, who himself is involved in the development of a number of medical devices, including the “SCOT: Smart Cyber Operating Theater,” a smart operating room, and who is playing a leading role in promoting the new department, about the objectives of the new department, its educational content and future goals.

 Cultivating creative developers

Why is it necessary to develop human resources for developing medical devices?


Medical devices tend to be over-imported, with data for 2021 showing a trade deficit of 1.8 trillion yen. In addition, high-risk treatment devices are almost entirely dependent on imports, which indicates a serious national security concern. On the other hand, Japan is actively exporting automobiles and machinery. Additionally, in the field of pharmaceuticals, Japanese pharmaceutical companies have recently teamed up with U.S. companies to manufacture and obtain approval for groundbreaking new drugs targeting cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. These companies are expanding their operations around the world.

One of the main reasons for the difference is that while there are pharmacy schools for pharmaceuticals, there is no specialized education system for medical devices. The actual needs and seeds are divided among medical science and engineering departments, as well as various enterprises. There is no single academic system to take care of them. Another reason is that Japan tends to be risk-averse, which inevitably delays the development of therapeutic devices. However, we believe that at the very least, we need a department and major that specializes in medical devices, as is the case with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in medicine, as well as a system that allows for consistent education.

What kind of talent will the newly established department cultivate?


The major feature of the new department is that it will be located within the School of Medicine. We will nurture creative developers who are capable of exploring the needs of the medical field and creating products to solve those needs. We will also nurture the ability to discover the needs of society, think of ways to meet them and create a future society by solving problems for their realization and dissemination. The ability to solve problems and create new concepts can be utilized not only in medical device manufacturers but also in any other company. Since students are exposed to the main theme of medical devices at a young age under 20, they will be able to become work-ready graduates. I think it would be a good idea for students to start their own venture companies right after graduation.

Muragaki holds a brochure of the Department of Medical Innovation Engineering.

What are the contents of the curriculum?


There are four features. One is practical training in the medical field that are unique to medical school. Another of our main selling points is active learning, in which students learn thinking habits such as critical thinking, creative thinking and design thinking. Students also learn communication and interaction skills. In addition, the program provides systematic education in the medical device development process. The program provides the credits necessary to qualify as a clinical engineering technician.

What kind of people would you like to see enrolled in this department?


I would like people to come who are interested in medicine and engineering, and who are full of curiosity. We nurture communication skills and originality in our department, so flexibility to accept these educational methods is important. To create something, you need to have discussions with various people and listen to various opinions, all without changing the core concept of what you want to create, which is a difficult requirement.

Digitizing surgeons’ eyes, hands and brains

It has been a year since the medical device engineering major was established at the Graduate School of Medicine. What is the response?


The hurdle to commercialization of medical devices is extremely high. It is said that the “concept creation” type, in which a product concept is developed from existing needs, succeeds in only 1 out of 100 cases, while the “seed push” type, in which an application is considered for an existing technology, succeeds in only 1 out of 1000 cases. In this department and major, we would like to somehow achieve a success rate of about 1 in 10. To this end, we have prepared a variety of practical trainings, exercises and subjects, and for the commercialization of the products have created a space that brings together not only faculty, doctors and engineers, but also various people who are knowledgeable about the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act and intellectual property. In the innovation subjects, students learn creative thinking and design thinking, and in the operation and business strategy subjects, we educate students on social implementation, including business management fields such as intellectual property, business models and entrepreneurship.

Currently, 15 students are enrolled in the master’s program and 12 in the doctoral program. Most of the doctoral students are employed professionals, and there is a wide variety, including doctors and businesspeople. There were several interesting research projects in the interim presentations, some of which could be put to practical use immediately. Personally, I think it would be good if we could develop about two to three projects per year.

The development of new R&D bases is also progressing.


Next to the International Clinical Cancer Research Center (ICCRC) of Kobe University Hospital on Port Island in Kobe, we are constructing the MedTech Innovation Center, a medical device R&D center, which is scheduled for completion this fall. This is part of the “Kobe Vision for the Healthcare of Tomorrow” being promoted by Kobe University, Kobe City and industry, and various mechanisms for collaboration between industry and academia are being created, including an industry-academia co-creation laboratory. As a new “gathering space for knowledge and talent,” it will be a center where stakeholders from various professions can come together to develop medical devices based on comprehensive knowledge.

What are your future goals as someone who is actually involved in the development of medical devices?


My goal is to see Kobe University or Japan produce one or two medical devices that will give a new impetus to the global medical community. It would be great if our graduates could join a new medical device development project and lead it to commercialization. In the future, my dream is that Japanese medical devices will eliminate the trade deficit, sweep across the world and contribute to global health and welfare. Personally, I would like to digitize the eyes, brain and hands of surgeons to cure diseases that so far cannot be cured. Specifically, I would like to completely digitize diagnosis, surgery and treatment by combining Hinotori and SCOT.


March 1986Graduated from Kobe University School of Medicine
April 1986Resident, Department of Neurosurgery, Tokyo Women’s Medical College Hospital
1992-1995Studies at the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
July 1997Ph.D. in medical science from Tokyo Women’s Medical College
1999-2001Department manager, Department of Neurosurgery, Tokyo Women’s Medical University
April 2011Professor, The Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science, Tokyo Women’s Medical University
March 2014Ph.D. in biomedical science from Waseda University
September 2022Professor, Center for Advanced Medical Engineering Research & Development, Kobe University
April 2023Director, Center for Advanced Medical Engineering Research & Development, Kobe University
Professor and vice dean, Graduate School of Medicine, Kobe University

The Department of Medical Device Engineering

Kobe University has applied to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to establish a new department specializing in the teaching of medical device development. It is scheduled to open in April 2025. In addition to liberal arts courses and basic medical knowledge such as physiology and anatomy, as well as fundamental engineering concepts including mathematics and physics, through specialized courses students will also learn about the legal system, intellectual property and business planning required for the societal application of medical devices. A unique aspect of the program is its emphasis on fostering creativity, and students will be trained to develop critical thinking, design thinking and systems thinking skills.

The Department of Medical Device Engineering website (Japanese)


  • SDGs%!s(<nil>)
  • SDGs%!s(<nil>)