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Someone who carefully considers Chugai Pharmaceutical’s clinical development strategy for global new drugs from scratch.

  • # career
  • # development
  • # ClinicalDevelopment

Yosuke Murakami

Translational Research Div.
Early Clinical Development Dept.
Since 2016

  • University

    Majored in medical science at graduate school and researched rheumatoid arthritis for his doctoral program.

  • 1st year

    Worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Kitasato University School of Medicine.

  • 2nd year

    Engaged in research activity at RIKEN Research Center for Allergy and Immunology (RCAI).

  • 4th year

    Worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Department of Rheumatology.

  • 7th year

    Engaged in research of immune receptors at National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States.

  • 11th year

    Returned to Japan and was employed by a Japanese pharmaceutical company. Engaged in drug discovery research in the immune disorders field.

  • 13th year

    Joined Chugai Pharmaceutical. Assigned to late-stage clinical development of candidate drug licensed in from Roche.

  • 16th year to present

    As a clinical leader, plans and drives forward comprehensive clinical development of company-developed products in the field of autoimmune diseases.

Using science more for patients.

Yosuke Murakami majored in medical science at graduate school, acquiring a deep specialization in autoimmune diseases. After completing his doctoral program, he spent around ten years in academia, achieving research results at the RIKEN Research Center for Allergy and Immunology (RCAI) and the National Institutes of Health (NHI) in the United States. He has a highly regarded track record, publishing eight articles as first author, primarily in the area of immune receptors. After that, he changed direction from academia to the pharmaceutical industry, where he engaged in drug discovery research at another major Japanese pharmaceutical company. However, a change gradually started to emerge in his mind. ‘I had been working in basic research for a long time because I enjoyed the exercise of researching a theme to verify my own ideas, but I did not really feel like I was contributing to society. As my career advanced, I started to wonder if perhaps my research had become little more than an exercise in self-satisfaction. The feeling of wanting to use my skills in an area that was much closer to patients became stronger.’

He came across Chugai Pharmaceutical while he was exploring the idea of a career that would allow him to be of service to patients in a more direct way. ‘A former RIKEN colleague who was working in clinical development at Chugai Pharmaceutical told me that the company was looking for new people for development positions and suggested that I apply. Clinical development is a field in which you are really aware of the patients’ presence. I was very attracted to that aspect, but it was totally unknown territory for me. During my recruitment interview, however, I was told that scientific knowledge and insight are necessary for early-stage clinical development in particular. I thought that my experience as a researcher would allow me to contribute, and I decided to join Chugai Pharmaceutical.’ In this way, now in his late 30s, Murakami took on the challenge of a new world.

Planning clinical studies across the world.

Immediately after joining the company, Murakami was assigned to the late-stage clinical development of a new drug developed by Roche that Chugai Pharmaceutical had licensed in. Initially, he was often perplexed by how much it differed from drug discovery. ‘I was completely unfamiliar with the terms used in the work. In addition, in clinical development, the work is progressed in accordance with prescribed procedures to verify safety and efficacy. I was very conscious of the gaps in my knowledge in the beginning, but I gradually came to understand how interesting this development work was. My position allows me to formulate development strategies myself, but because clinical development involves various functions such as drug manufacturing and sales, as well as clinical functions, it also requires me to manage the whole. It's a very challenging job.’ In this way, Murakami developed his knowledge of clinical development, and he was promoted to clinical leader in his third year at the company and tasked with leading the overall clinical development of company-developed products.

The position of clinical leader involves establishing the concept of what diseases a new drug candidate proposed by the research lab could be applied to, and formulating clinical development plans to prove that concept. ‘I was entrusted with a new drug candidate targeting an autoimmune disease that does not have many patients in Japan. Chugai Pharmaceutical was planning to expand the product globally. That meant that clinical studies also needed to be conducted overseas. I looked into which doctors were authorities in this disease and considered who we should work with. I then contacted them and formulated clinical study plans, exchanging opinions with them along the way. I literally planned and executed the development strategy with my own intentions completely from scratch.’

Opportunity to show the company president directly what I want to do.

Murakami is still working on the clinical development of the new drug candidate for this rare autoimmune disease. Based on his daily discussions with prominent doctors in the United States and Australia who have been asked to conduct the trials, he reflects his own ideas into his work on the development. ‘I have a great deal of discretion in my approach to the development, and I believe that this is a major benefit of working at Chugai Pharmaceutical. In our company, the key members of the new drug development teams are given the opportunity to meet with top management, including the president, on a regular basis, where we can present development policies for the future and ask for investment decisions. We have many opportunities to show top management directly what we think should happen and to actually make it happen.’

Murakami feels that Chugai Pharmaceutical has a corporate culture that encourages employees to take on new challenges. ‘In the initial stages of presenting ideas, budget takes a backseat, and they will accept any ideas that have the potential to help patients. The culture is such that, If there is even the slightest chance you can make something happen, they will say, “Let’s give it a try.” This corporate culture is exactly why Chugai Pharmaceutical is able to bring about innovation.’ Murakami’s current major goal is to make a success of this clinical development and to deliver the new drug into the world. He also intends to work on clinical research using new technology such as digital biomarkers. Murakami is keen to stretch himself by taking on the many challenges that only Chugai Pharmaceutical can offer.

* The contents of this article are correct as of the time of interview.


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