Theme 4
SDGs and Sumitomo: Health

 One-point explanation
Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” expressly encompasses everyone. Nevertheless, countless people in developing countries and elsewhere lack access to proper healthcare services. For example, each year more than five million children around the world die before reaching the age of five. Although the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit held in September 2015, expresses strong determination with the words “We commit to accelerating the progress made to date in reducing newborn, child and maternal mortality by ending all such preventable deaths before 2030,” many challenges must be overcome to achieve the SDGs in the health and medical care field. Furthermore, with pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus spreading throughout the world, improvement of healthcare services is a task that has taken on added urgency everywhere.
Through its manifold business activities, the Sumitomo Group is making progress with numerous initiatives contributing to the improvement of healthcare services. One example of this is a mosquito net Sumitomo Chemical developed for preventing malaria. In the coming years, the Group is expected to make further contributions toward achievement of universal health coverage through various approaches, such as drug discovery, hospital reforms, and sustainable financing, so that everyone can access proper healthcare services.

Koichi Kozuka
Director, SDGs Design Center
Nikkei BP Consulting

Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd.

Contributing to people’s health through products that combat tropical infectious diseases, including malaria which still claims many lives in Africa

©Maggie Hallahan
Children protected by an Olyset® Net insecticidal net

Infectious diseases have always been threatening lives throughout human history. Malaria, a distant memory in Japan, continues to infect more than 200 million people worldwide each year, mainly in Africa. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated number of malaria fatalities was 405,000 in 2018, 94% of which occurred in Africa, and 67% was children under the age of five.

Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. When talking about pesticides used to prevent malaria, Japanese people may have a vivid memory of DDT (an organochlorine pesticide) used by the U.S. armed forces after the Second World War. In Japan, DDT played a key role in controlling lice and malarial mosquitoes in the post-war period when sanitary conditions were poor. However, the manufacture and use of DDT have been banned in many countries since environmental problems associated with its use were pointed out.

For half a century, Sumitomo Chemical has engaged, as a business, in mosquito vector control; measures to control or eliminate mosquitoes that transmit tropical infectious diseases. The company began its operation in 1913 as a producer of fertilizers, and has evolved pesticide technology as an extension of that business. A groundbreaking product developed in the second half of the 1990s using the technology cultivated over the years was Olyset® Net, a long-lasting insecticidal net impregnated with an insecticide effective against malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. The technology was originally applied in insect-repellent screen doors used in factories. In the 1990s the idea of applying this technology to malaria prevention was raised internally at Sumitomo Chemical, and this led to commercialization of a new product.

Prevention of the spread of malaria was already included in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) back in 2000, the predecessor of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sumitomo Chemical has since distributed Olyset® Net through various international organizations. Olyset® Net was recommended in 2001 by the WHO as the world’s first long-lasting insecticidal net, and it has come into widespread use mainly in Africa where there are many malaria patients. The company also developed an indoor residual spray (IRS) as a malaria control product and made efforts to disseminate it. The spray exterminates Anopheles mosquitoes by exploiting their habit to rest on walls after biting humans.

Indoor residual spraying of SumiShield™ 50WG

Due in part to the contribution of such products, the worldwide malaria morbidity rate trended down toward 2010. However, it began showing an upward trend from around 2014, particularly in Africa. It has been reported that one of the causes for upward swing was an increased resistance of mosquitoes to the existing insecticide ingredients used in some regions. Sumitomo Chemical responded to this challenge by embarking on the development of SumiShield™ 50WG, an IRS that contains a new active ingredient. The company obtained WHO prequalification for the product in 2017 and began supplying it in Africa in 2018.

Since SumiShield™ 50WG must be sprayed in the right quantity evenly on walls, it is very important for us to demonstrate the correct use of the product to people in the field. Accordingly, Sumitomo Chemical employees travel to Africa, and disseminate the product bundled with technical guidance. The company has now moved into a phase to increase supply volume and accelerate dissemination. In addition to SumiShield™ 50WG, Sumitomo Chemical has launched several other products effective in preventing tropical infectious diseases. One example is SumiLarv® 2MR, a long-lasting larvicide for combating dengue fever and Zika fever, diseases similarly transmitted by mosquitoes. The company will continue its effort to contribute to the health of people in Africa and around the world through this business.

SumiLarv® 2MR, capable of controlling the breeding of mosquitoes for a longer period than conventional products, and examples of its use

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation

Co-creating sustainable projects together with corporate customers through provision of financing

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation has established the Growth Industry Cluster Department, an organization that offers financial support for high-growth industries and companies. The Department pursues measures that reflect the view that projects are created together with customers, not merely proposed by customers, by participating from the project origination and planning stage.

As more and more companies undertake initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the balance of green bonds and social bonds issued is rapidly increasing, and demand for these bonds and loans is growing as well. When providing financing for sustainable development initiatives, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) has adopted the impact on realization of a sustainable society as a new decision-making criterion in addition to financial information (risk and return).

SMBC launched a loan product in October 2018. Designed to promote SDGs at SMEs, the product includes a subsidy that partially pays the credit guarantee fee of clients who have prepared a management plan that helps them examine their SDGs initiatives. During the loan period, SMBC will provide support such as information provision for clients to achieve their management plan. SMBC introduced SDG Social Loans in January 2019, to provide funding for projects that address social issues. It modified this program in April 2019 by adding green loans to provide funding for projects that address environmental issues and sustainability loans to fund projects that address both environmental and social issues and now offers SDG Green/Social/Sustainability Loans.

SDG Green/Social/Sustainability Loans support the visualization of impacts relating to reduction of CO2 emissions and social contributions on the basis of reports issued by corporate customers (impact reports). The aim is to link the needs of investors who seek to invest in financial products for which these impacts are clearly disclosed and those of borrowers that want to effectively disclose impacts in order to achieve SDGs. For this purpose, SMBC examines projects considered for loans and determines which of the 17 SDGs they can contribute to and provides advice to borrowers.

Schematic representation of SDGs Green/Social/Sustainability Loans
SDG Green/Social/Sustainability Loans differ from ordinary loans in that they are limited to projects for which funds are allocated for specific purposes and in that a loan framework is prepared and the project is visualized, an external reviewer evaluation is obtained, and the borrowers reports on impacts each year after the provision of loans.
Members of the Growth Industry Cluster Department, which promotes SDGs Green/Social/Sustainability Loans

The first such loans were provided to Healthcare & Medical Investment Corporation, which aims to contribute to the achievement of SDGs by expediting the supply of nursing care facilities and hospitals. These loans attracted public attention as the first social loans in Japan based on the green bond principles formulated by the International Capital Market Association (ICMA). SMBC provided Healthcare & Medical Investment Corporation with advice in preparation for disclosure of non-financial information in an impact report that the company published in December 2019. Also, SMBC and SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. assisted Miraca Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest contract clinical laboratory testing provider, in formulating a social finance framework, collaborating in the provision of financing that combines social loans and social bonds. Within the framework, two Miraca Holdings projects, namely, introduction of testing equipment and IT systems in connection with opening of a new clinical testing facility and promotion of basic research, were positioned as social projects that contribute to solving the social issues “controlling social welfare spending” and “research and development aimed at quality improvement of clinical testing and technology innovation.”

In addition to providing financing for sustainable projects of corporate customers, SMBC engages in SDG initiatives to bring the projects to fruition together with the customers as a partner. Although SMBC primarily targets large enterprises, mainly listed companies, for SDG Green/Social/Sustainability Loans, more and more mid-tier companies and SMEs are adopting a positive stance on SDG initiatives, and the Bank intends to expand provision of these loans to such companies going forward.

Sumitomo Life Insurance Company

Insurance product encouraging healthy lifestyles with the aim of extending healthy life expectancy

Japan is one of the leading countries in the world for longevity and is said to have entered the “era of centenarians” in recent years. The focus is increasingly not just on living a long life but on living a long, healthy, active life. That is, the focus is on healthy life expectancy.

Amid the great changes in society brought about by population aging and the progress of healthcare technology, the role of life insurance is changing. Whereas conventional insurance products are designed with the risks of disease, injury, death, and long-term care in mind, the advent of a society in which longevity is the norm has brought needs associated with a long life to the fore. In order to contribute to the extension of healthy life expectancy through its products, Sumitomo Life is promoting a project creating shared value (CSV) in the form of health enhancement.

The project consists of three initiatives. Of these, the key initiative is provision of the SUMITOMO LIFE Vitality Shared-Value Insurance to customers, which is designed to motivate policyholders to engage in health-enhancing activities. By engaging in activities contributing to health, policyholders can enjoy lower insurance premiums and other benefits. This life insurance product incorporates the Vitality Wellness Program, which was developed by Discovery, a South African financial services company, and has 20 million members across 24 countries and regions (as of April 2020). Sumitomo Life introduced this product in July 2018 as an exclusive provider of the Vitality Wellness Program in Japan. The number of policyholders had reached 570,000 by January 2021. Sumitomo Life intends to further promote sales of this product.

The second initiative is promotion of health enhancement across society. In 2017, to commemorate its 110th anniversary, Sumitomo Life launched Sumisei Vitality Action to encourage people to take exercise. Sumitomo Life has formed partnerships with local governments, health-related foundations, researchers, athletes, and others to offer people opportunities to take exercise in the community. As well as holding sports events across Japan, the company also holds seminars and distributes leaflets to raise awareness about health enhancement.

Based on the “Move your body with your loved ones!” concept, Sumisei Vitality Action embodies the company’s earnest desire to enhance people’s health and happiness by encouraging them to take exercise with those they cherish. Sumitomo Life plans to hold sports events for parents and their children and fun runs at 110 locations nationwide.

The third initiative is promotion of health-focused management to help employees and their families become healthier. For a company to advocate the value of healthy lifestyles to customers and society, its own employees must themselves pursue healthy lifestyles, or otherwise the company’s value proposition will be unpersuasive. In accordance with the Sumitomo Life Group Health-focused Management Declaration, the company offers employees various types of support to encourage them to take the initiative in engaging in health maintenance and enhancement activities. The company’s activities include the holding of events and other opportunities to take exercise, encouraging employees to wear sneakers during commuting, and promoting work style reform.

From the perspective of the company’s business, the primary objective of the CSV project is to promote the SUMITOMO LIFE Vitality. In combination with the two other initiatives that are closely related with CSR, the project has far-reaching impacts. Not only has the number of Vitality policyholders rapidly increased, but 84% of them responded that their quality of life has been enhanced*. Sumitomo Life believes ongoing gains in health enhancement that deliver a sense of satisfaction to individuals will lead to longer healthy life expectancy in Japan, which is the ultimate objective. Moreover, in cooperation with Discovery and Vitality partners around the world, Sumitomo Life is party to a commitment to make 100 million people 20% more physically active by 2025, and relishes this opportunity to contribute to the health of people worldwide.

*Result of a questionnaire survey by Sumitomo Life (15,702 respondents excluding Sumitomo Life employees)

*Result of a questionnaire survey by Sumitomo Life (15,702 respondents excluding Sumitomo Life employees)

NEC Corporation

Active use of AI technology for hospital administrative reforms and prompt social reintegration of patients

As the graying of Japanese society progresses and the birthrate continues to decline, various social issues related to medical care are emerging. For example, if hospital stays lengthen and the reintegration of patients into society is delayed, medical costs rise and the workload of medical personnel inevitably increases. Accordingly, it is important to ensure prompt reintegration of patients into society and alleviate the burden on medical personnel while improving the quality of medical care. The sustainable management of hospitals in the face of personnel and financial shortages is another major issue, and hospital administrative reforms are a matter of urgent necessity.

Speech recognition that applies NEC’s AI technology is utilized for voice input in medical record keeping for the purpose of easing the record-keeping workload, a heavy burden at the frontline of medical care. In a demonstration at KNI, nursing record keeping, which previously required an hour per day per nurse, was reduced by 58%.

NEC, which focuses on business development prompted by social issues, is proceeding with an initiative to utilize AI technology to address these challenges confronting the medical system. Together with medical corporation KNI of Hachioji City, Tokyo, which aims to realize a digital hospital utilizing advanced information and communications technology, in 2017 NEC began a demonstration project aimed at achieving medical system and social reforms using NEC the WISE, NEC’s suite of leading-edge AI technologies.

One aspect of the initiative is prediction of various types of inpatient agitation, such as confusion and hallucination. Analysis of KNI’s electronic medical records confirmed agitation on the part of approximately 34% of inpatients and indicated that the discharge of patients who exhibited agitation was delayed by some 19 days, on average, compared to other patients. Accordingly, NEC collected patient data and used AI to perform extraction and analysis. Signs of inpatient agitation were detected up to 40 minutes in advance of occurrence with 71% accuracy. This makes it possible to promptly respond to agitation and helps avoid prolongation of hospitalization while also helping reduce the workload of the medical personnel who care for these patients.

The system uses patient electronic medical records at the time of hospitalization to predict whether patients will be discharged to home, a convalescent hospital, or a long-term care hospital. In fact, the system predicted discharge destinations with 84% accuracy. This predictive capability can be used to begin arranging discharges and transfers at an early stage and support the social reintegration of patients. Besides, from the perspective of hospital operation, the system can be used to expedite acceptance of new patients by identifying empty beds.

Patients at high risk of aspiration pneumonia are identified on the basis of electronic medical records data. The information is updated daily.

Since 2018, NEC has further enhanced co-creation with KNI. For the purpose of boosting nursing department operational efficiency and reducing the burden on nurses, NEC has undertaken a demonstration project involving the use of AI to achieve qualitative improvement and greater efficiency in nursing records on the basis of early identification of patients at high risk of aspiration pneumonia and analysis of speech information. High effectiveness in improving both quality and efficiency has been confirmed. Additionally, in 2019 verification of a rehabilitation plan preparation technology was undertaken at KNI’s Kitahara Rehabilitation Hospital. The quality of rehabilitation plan preparation by inexperienced staff members improved to a level equivalent to that of experienced personnel, and the time required for plan preparation was reduced by approximately 60%. NEC intends to continue applying its AI technology to contribute to hospital operating reforms and solutions to problems facing patients and medical personnel while defining this undertaking as an initiative for achieving SDGs.

Sumitomo Pharma Co., Ltd.

Contributing to the health of people worldwide with novel iPS cell technology-based treatment methods

The Sumitomo Dainippon Manufacturing Plant for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Therapy (SMaRT) was completed on the grounds of the Central Research Laboratories in Suita City, Osaka, in March 2018. It is the world’s first facility dedicated to the commercial manufacturing of regenerative medicine and cell therapy products derived from allogenic iPS cells.

Enabling people everywhere to lead healthy, affluent lives is a critically important aspect of efforts to realize a sustainable society. Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma is conducting R&D (Research and Development) of new drugs that contribute to people’s health under a global R&D structure with bases in Japan, North America, and China, placing particular emphasis on unmet medical needs. The company has selected three areas as focus research areas: psychiatry and neurology, oncology, and regenerative medicine and cell therapy.

Focus Research Areas

Among these research areas, psychiatry and neurology has traditionally been an area of strength for the company. In particular, LATUDA, an atypical antipsychotic successfully developed globally and launched in 2011, is a core product with annual sales of 190.0 billion yen in North America alone. Although the initial indication for LATUDA was schizophrenia only, sales have grown substantially as a result of the approval of bipolar I depression as an additional indication. The company aims to launch LATUDA in Japan during fiscal 2020.

Regenerative medicine and cell therapy is a area that has attracted tremendous attention in recent years. Although it was previously commonly believed that neurons do not regenerate, since around 1990 Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma has continued to engage in research to overturn that conventional wisdom. Today, the company is a global leader in the use of iPS cells in regenerative medicine and cell therapy and is pursuing R&D in collaboration with the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, where Nobel Prize laureate Professor Shinya Yamanaka works as the director, RIKEN, and other research institutes.

Among Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma’s development projects in the area of regenerative medicine and cell therapy, the project at the most advanced stage is a therapeutic agent for Parkinson’s disease. An investigator-initiated clinical study using iPS cell-derived dopamine neural progenitor cells has begun, and the company aims to introduce a product to the market in fiscal 2022. Transplantation of iPS cell-derived cells is expected to exhibit breakthrough effects for people unable to obtain therapeutic benefits from conventional treatment methods, such as restoring sight to people with vision impairments and restoring motion to people suffering from partial paralysis.

Projects currently underway involve promoting the application of cells derived from iPS cells cultivated from allogenic cells, which are cells taken from healthy individuals other than the patient, in neurological and ophthalmic disorders. The company has set its sights on eventually regenerating complex organs having many types of cells through cultivation of iPS cells from autologous cells, a patient’s own cells. On the frontlines of next-generation regenerative medicine, treatment involving partial replacement of organs with new tissue, such as replacement of kidneys that have lost function due to disease or other reasons, may become commonplace.

Workers using a safety cabinet installed within SMaRT to perform a process involved in manufacturing regenerative medicine and cell therapy products from iPS cells

Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co., Ltd. changed its name to Sumitomo Pharma Co., Ltd. in April 2022.
The company name and affiliations and titles of the persons in the article are correct as of the time of publication.

(Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co., Ltd. changed its name to Sumitomo Pharma Co., Ltd. in April 2022. The company name and affiliations and titles of the persons in the article are correct as of the time of publication.)