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Someone who wants to bridge the gap between clinical studies and actual clinical practice and who aspires to an advanced scientific profession at a young age.

Kei Harufuku

Medical Sciences Dept.
Medical Affairs Div.
Since 2018

Kei Harufuku wants to solve an issue he noticed during his job search and to help patients.

Harufuku has loved science ever since he was a child. His interest in the pharmaceuticals industry was sparked by news about the launch of a new drug that he saw when he was in high school. ‘That new drug was Chugai Pharmaceutical’s antibody drug. They said that it could be expected to have revolutionary effects and to help many patients. I was greatly inspired by the notion that the creation of a single drug could have such a huge impact on society, which led me to want to work in pharmaceuticals myself.’ It was with such aspirations that he majored in pharmacy at university and looked for a job in the pharmaceutical industry after graduation. He initially applied for a position in clinical development, an area that is tasked with the development of new drugs, but after taking part in an internship at a certain pharmaceutical company, he underwent a significant change of heart. ‘After that internship, I started to feel that there might be limits to the data that could be obtained in clinical studies.’

Clinical studies are clinical trials involving patients, which are used to confirm the efficacy and safety of new drugs that are in development. ‘I learned that, because clinical studies handle new drugs for which there is not yet enough efficacy and safety data, subject suitability and exclusion criteria based on patients’ age, medical history, and other aspects are set, and only people who satisfy those criteria can participate in the trials. For example, there are cases in which patients aged 65 and over are unable to take part. What that means is that there is no data to prove the efficacy and safety in patients who do not meet the criteria set for the trials. So, it occurred to me that, even if the data from the trial is recognized and the new drug is brought to market, there might not be enough data on suitable methods of use of the drug in such patients in clinical practice. I thought that, although it is important to deliver new drugs to patients as quickly as possible, if we want to help more patients, it is also important to bridge that gap between clinical studies and actual clinical practice after the drug has been marketed.’ As he continued with his job search with that realization in mind, he came across Chugai Pharmaceutical’s domain-specific scientific positions.

Creating valuable evidence and delivering it to the clinical field.

The mission of Chugai Pharmaceutical’s domain-specific scientific positions is to find out what information is lacking but that patients and medical practitioners need, formulate and execute strategies to meet those needs, and create evidence (scientific grounds). ‘Very few pharmaceutical companies advertise for new graduates for those kinds of positions. That rarity factor interested me, so I decided to attend the information session out of curiosity more than anything. When I heard what the job entailed, I intuitively felt that this was the job for me, so I lodged an application.’
Domain-specific scientific positions are, indeed, positions that fill the gap between clinical studies and actual clinical practice. Feeling that such a position would allow him to respond to the issue he had noticed in the course of his job search and to feel a sense of helping patients, Harufuku chose to join Chugai Pharmaceutical.

Domain-specific scientific positions can be broadly divided into two categories. One is the position of medical manager, which entails exploring pharmaceutical needs post-market and developing strategies for increasing the value of pharmaceuticals. The other is that of clinical trial manager, which has the role of executing those strategies and creating evidence while managing clinical investigation. Harufuku works in the lung cancer domain, and while still in the early years of his career at the company, he has already been entrusted with multiple clinical investigation projects as a clinical trial manager, while also working on strategy development to assist his senior colleague working as medical managers. To gather information about needs on the ground, he sits in on the regular meetings among physicians who are authorities in the lung cancer domain. ‘It is very inspiring to be able to discuss the issues with doctors from all over Japan who are driving the treatment of lung cancer. They are really thinking seriously about how they can help the patients they face every day, so when I encounter their passion, it fires up my own motivation to help them.’

There are very few opportunities for new graduates to take on the challenge of this kind of job.

It requires a diverse range of skills, such as sufficient scientific knowledge to discuss issues with top-class physicians, the ability to identify the data that patients really need, and the ability to pursue clinical investigations in collaboration with physicians. Harufuku says that he struggles every day, but that he finds reward when he can sense that his own actions are contributing to medical care on the ground. ‘Just the other day, when I was talking to a physician about the clinical investigation I am working on, the doctor expressed great hopes for the project, saying, “There is still no established treatment for the patients that this investigation is targeting, so it is highly significant both for us clinical physicians and for the patients. I look forward to seeing the data when it comes out.” When I heard this, it renewed my strong sense in the importance of my work.’ Once they have built up valuable evidence through this investigation, it will be published in official treatment guidelines for lung cancer and be disseminated as an effective treatment. ‘Nothing would make me happier than if the evidence I have developed leads to progress in the treatment of lung cancer.’

Harufuku is actually part of the inaugural cohort of new graduates recruited for domain-specific scientific positions. Because the division he belongs to demands a high degree of specialization, until now, the organization had comprised current employees who had already gained practical experience in positions such as research, clinical development, and sales. ‘I think Chugai Pharmaceutical is a very bold company for recruiting new graduates with the intention of developing them into domain-specific professionals right from the start (laughs). It certainly does demand very high standards, but if we look at it another way, it is an environment in which I can really grow from a young age. I can be entrusted with important work from my second and third year, and, if I make a mistake, my boss and senior colleagues will cover for me, which in turn will give me new knowledge. I am definitely glad that I chose this position.’ Based on the career he has built up in this domain-specific scientific position, he hopes he can contribute to medicine in the broader healthcare arena in the future. Harufuku continues to take on challenges with this lofty vision.

*The contents of this article, and the divisions that the people featured in this article belonged to and the names of those divisions are current as of the time of the interview.


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