21 May 2013

The creation of innovations should combine tradition and innovation

View of Fujiyama

Tatiana Bateneva, Rossiyskaya GazetaIn good weather, the famous Mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan, is visible from the Shonan Research Center of the Takeda Pharmaceutical Company.

We, Russian journalists, were unlucky with the weather – the day was overcast, it was drizzling, and we could not see the famous mountain. However, the spirit of Fuji – a combination of striving to conquer the peaks and inner harmony – was invisibly present in Shonan itself, one of the most modern R&D centers of the global pharmaceutical business.

Takeda, with its 230-year history and traditional values such as honesty, fairness and perseverance, nevertheless considers the development of innovative drugs in the six therapeutic areas that it has identified as key ones to be one of its priorities. And invests heavily in its own R&D centers, whose activities are coordinated by the Shonan Center.

But since it is increasingly difficult to search for new molecules today, it is impossible to concentrate only on your own research. Therefore, the company cooperates with the largest universities in the world and Japan. The company plans to become one of the world leaders in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, cancer and the production of antiviral vaccines.

Externally, the Shonan center does not make a special impression – the light box of the building with straight lines surrounded by an elegant garden was built two years ago. But inside everything is organized according to the laws of logic and the latest ergonomics. The whole path of new drugs consists of seven steps, according to the company, and the first three of them are made here. It is important that extra efforts and funds are not spent on them, so that scientists can work comfortably and conveniently. But there is nothing superfluous here, no marble and gilding – practical non-slip plastic, metal, glass, bright interiors.

Five identical five-storey buildings are connected by two long passages that divide each building into three parts. In one parallel, all chemical research is concentrated, in the second – biochemical, in the third – vivarium, where animal research is carried out.

A total of 1,200 scientists work here. Each group has a full opportunity to conduct both chemical and biochemical research, and then test ideas on cell models, proteins and animals in its sector. In addition to laboratories, the group also has special rooms for general meetings, where you can hold a presentation, discuss reports, watch videos, etc. There is no one in the wide corridor, which is, of course, called Broadway here, everyone is busy during working hours.

The building is also distinguished by the most advanced engineering solutions. The transparent roof over the aisles gives daylight, saving electricity. There is a closed system of disposal of harmful emissions and purification of water and air. Gaps have been left between the buildings, which provide natural ventilation and safety in case of an earthquake – the city of Kobe is very close, where it was shaking again recently. Earthquake resistance is also guaranteed by special elastic gaskets between the buildings and the piles on which the building stands. With any tremors, it will only sway. After all, triple strength is needed here – there may be infected animals in the vivarium that cannot be released into the wild under any circumstances.

– You can tell us at home how to build modern research centers – economically and wisely, – smiles Mikhail Rekharsky, one of the few foreigners working in Shonan. He worked for many years at the Chemistry faculty of Moscow State University, then worked in the USA, received an invitation to Japan. Here he is engaged in testing new equipment. – But the working conditions are the most favorable.

Conditions are created not only for work. Employees are paid half of the food costs, apartments are provided, and 70% of housing costs are compensated. There is a kindergarten at the center – in the morning you can bring your child with you, in the evening you can go home with him. And this is not accidental – in the Japanese tradition, people are considered the main factor in the success of any business. Perhaps that is why the head of the center and the head of the pharmaceutical research division of the company, Dr. Tetsuyuki Maruyama, whose name was Paul Chapman a year ago, took Japanese citizenship and changed his name.

... When we left the center, the rain stopped, but the great Fuji was still not visible. But on the flagpole in front of the center, next to the flags of Japan and the company, our native tricolor was flying. "In honor of your visit," explained the head of the PR department, Mr. Seizo Masuda, who accompanied us. It seems to be a trifle, but it is also based on unproven attention to people.

The head of the Shonan Center, Dr. Tetsuyuki Maruyama, answered the questions of the "RG".– What developments of the center do you consider the most promising and close to completion?

Tetsuyuki Maruyama: We think the most promising new drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The drug acts on the receptors of one of the G-proteins, which is involved in the process of glucose metabolism in the body. This protein was discovered by our scientists. And we hope that our drug will allow us to control blood sugar levels without the occurrence of hypoglycemia, that is, too much decrease in blood sugar levels, which is dangerous for the patient. We are proud of this development, as it shows all the high scientific potential that exists at Takeda today.

– In what other areas of medicine are promising research going on?

Tetsuyuki Maruyama: We are searching for promising molecules for the treatment of diseases of the central nervous system (primarily Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, etc.), oncology, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, obesity. In partnership with one of the biotech companies, we are searching for a genetic marker of Alzheimer's disease and hope that this will make it possible to diagnose it at an early stage for those patients who may have the disease within the next five years. We are inspired by the fact that a medicine that allows the prevention of this disease has already been created. We propose to start clinical studies of early treatment of Alzheimer's disease with an existing drug that we think will be effective in preventing it or will help significantly delay the onset of the disease. The point is to learn how to identify risk groups. This task is not easy, but it is no longer impossible.

– It is known that the creation of a new drug takes 10-12 years. Are there new technologies to speed up this process?

Tetsuyuki Maruyama: Most of the time and money during the development of a new drug is spent on finding targets for which the drug should act. However, this often does not lead to results. The main reason is that there is a question of safety and tolerability of the new drug. After all, our goal can be present both in the cells that we want to influence, and in those that we don't want to. We hope that a new technology, the so–called artificial bacterial chromosome (VAS), or bacterial trap, will also help solve these problems. With its help, we can find genes that are present only in those cells that we want to act on. Now this technology is mainly used to search for diseases of the central nervous system, but in potency it can also be used to search for targets in other cells – immune or beta cells of the pancreas. However, this technology will take another 8-10 years for the drug to receive official approval. We are ready to afford such a distant planning horizon, realizing that this can lead to the creation of new drugs that are really significant for patients in the future.

– But such sophisticated technologies will make medicines even more expensive. And the development of each already costs a billion dollars, at least.

Tetsuyuki Maruyama: I don't think so. After all, this billion includes the costs of those drugs that have not reached commercialization for various reasons. If we have more correct "targets", then the probability of success increases, and the costs on average will become less. Biotechnologies have brought us antibodies and proteins with which we can reach these goals. For example, we are currently developing an antibody-bound toxin that interacts with certain types of cancer cells. And the more such new technologies are discovered, the more opportunities there will be to find new medicines.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru21.05.2013

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