Understanding Chugai’s history that fostered the business philosophy “Innovation all for the patients”
In the first half of the 1980s, Chugai made a policy shift from chemical compounds to the use of biotechnologies in its drug discovery. Its initial successful launches following this shift were Epogin® (1990) and Neutrogin® (1991). This experience would later lead to work on therapeutic antibodies, but without the shift in orientation toward biopharmaceuticals in the 1980s, Chugai might not be what it is today.
Point1: Joint research with a U.S. bio-venture and launch of Epogin®, our first biopharmaceutical product
At a time when Japan lacked the technology and know-how to create biopharmaceuticals, Chugai made a capital investment in US venture Genetics Institute Inc. in 1983 and started joint research on erythropoietin (EPO) formulations. This decision resulted in the creation of Epogin® five and a half years later. The successful development of this product in such a short time attests to Chugai’s technological and organizational strengths.
Point2: Launch of Neutrogin®, our second biopharmaceutical product. Chugai achieves world-class results
Development of Neutrogin®️ began in 1974 under an industry-academia framework with domestic universities and specialized institutions such as the University of Tokyo School of Medicine and the University of Tokyo Institute of Medical Science. After becoming the first in the world to successfully purify recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) in 1984, Chugai established technology for mass production using genetic engineering. The company started clinical trials in 1987 and launched Neutrogin®️ as its second biopharmaceutical four years later. It took 17 years from the start of research to the launch, but the product signaled a new stage in Japan’s biopharmaceutical development, which had been lagging behind Europe and North America.
Point3: Announcement of the Four Corporate Principles and 21st Century Vision
The three corporate principles announced by former president Kimio Ueno in his New Year’s address for 1973 have evolved with the times. In 1993, then-president Osamu Nagayama stressed the importance of globalization by adding another principle, “pursuit of internationality,” thus establishing a set of four corporate principles. With this new philosophy and the announcement of Chugai’s vision for the 21st century, the company has aimed to transform itself into a creator of value with the aim of being a global company for the benefit of the medical community and human health around the world.
Point4: From injectable to oral formulation. Furtulon®, an anticancer drug born out of a change in thinking
In 1975, a compound with anticancer activity was synthesized at Roche’s laboratory in Nutley, New Jersey, USA, but commercial success in the form of an injection was considered to be difficult. With this in mind, the Nippon Roche Research Center began work on developing an oral formulation. In September 1987, Nippon Roche launched Furtulon®, a oral anticancer agent, which reached ¥10 billion in annual sales two and a half years later. At a time when injections accounted for the majority of anticancer agents, thinking differently with the development of an oral formulation led to success.