Dispatches from Interphex Japan

Tokyo drift? Large molecule R&D shortfall threat to Japanese pharma, says Chugai

By Dan Stanton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tokyo drift? Lack of biologics R&D threatens Japanese pharma

Related tags: Pharmacology

A failure to embrace biologics R&D has restricted Japanese pharma’s global growth, says CEO of Roche subsidiary Chugai Pharmaceuticals.

Japan’s R&D strategy has been compromised by a lack of investment and failure to move away from conventional drug discovery, Osamu Nagayama, CEO of Chugai Pharmaceuticals, told delegates at Interphex Japan in Tokyo today.

European and US companies began developing major biopharmaceutical products from the latter half of 1990’s while Japanese firms were still focused on small molecule drug discovery, he said. And as biologics come to dominate the blockbuster drug lists – eight of the top 10 were large molecule in 2015, compared with one a decade before – Japan’s presence in the global market diminishes.

Thus while Japan is the second largest market after the US, the country has no presence on a list of the top 15 pharmaceutical manufacturers according to 2015 revenues. (The largest Japanese firm is Takeda which is 17th​ globally, while Chugai as its own company is 37th​ and the 6th​ largest Japanese drugmaker).

Nagayama also suggested failures to foster biologics-based investment ventures have also placed Japan at a disadvantage to the US, where hubs on the East and West coast have been attributed to discovering many of the top-selling biologics.

And things could get worse too for the sector, he continued, as Japan is looking to address the fiscal burden of an aging population and could, by targeting drug prices without taking into account the high cost of drug discovery and development under new policies being discussed by the government.

Global partnership

One way for Japanese firms to survive in a sector biologics and precision medicine through partnerships with multinationals, and Nagayama cited Roche’s 51% acquisition of his company in 2002 as an example.

Before the takeover, Chugai was not large enough to move into the biologics space, but now the firm leverages both its Swiss parent and its other major subsidiary Genentech forming a global network and sharing research expertise and a discovery bank of around three million compounds, all the while remaining independent in terms of management and decision making, he said

As such, Chugai was able to develop and bring to market its first biologic product Actemra (tocilizumab) in 2006, and today makes 30% of all antibodies for the Japanese market and has a major bioproduction facility in Tokyo, housing 49,000L​ of bioreactor capacity.

Related news

Related products

Seasonal Vaccine Manufacturing

Seasonal Vaccine Manufacturing

Baxter BioPharma Solutions | 16-Feb-2022 | Technical / White Paper

The production of seasonal vaccines, such as those for influenza, presents unique challenges to manufacturers due to the necessary time constraints resulting...

Consideration and Options for Prefilled Syringes

Consideration and Options for Prefilled Syringes

Baxter BioPharma Solutions | 16-Feb-2022 | Technical / White Paper

Convenience, product differentiation, and less waste are great reasons for developing a product in a prefilled syringe. Baxter’s whitepaper describes the...

Partner with Experts in Precision Medicine

Partner with Experts in Precision Medicine

CellCarta | 17-Jan-2022 | Product Brochure

At CellCarta, we’re dedicated to working with our partners to further the limitless potential of precision medicine. Our broad technology offering is designed...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more