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“Interesting” is his greatest driving force. Someone who travels all over the world and enjoys the cutting edge.

Yuichiro Shimizu

Chugai Pharmabody Research
Pte. Ltd.
Since 2010

  • University

    Obtained a PhD after engaging in diverse research into plant genetics (undergraduate), molecular evolution of snails (master course), and DNA repair (doctoral course).

  • 1st year

    Worked as a postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN.

  • 2nd year

    Engaged in research on protein folding in mammalian cells as a postdoctoral research fellow at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in the United States. Used antibodies as the main material.

  • 8th year

    Joined Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. Worked on several biologics-related projects in the Research Division.

  • 10th year

    Temporarily transferred to Chugai Pharmabody Research (CPR), newly established in Singapore. Took on the roles of establishment of the Protein Production Unit and as function leader and was involved in the promotion of biologics-related projects.

  • 14th year

    Assigned to position of Research Manager at CPR and was involved in multifunctional management as well as company operations.

  • 17th year to present

    Returned to Chugai Pharmaceutical’s Research Division. As a group manager in protein regulation functions, he is currently working hard to update functions and promote various drug discovery activities.

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In his days in academia, Yuichiro Shimizu threw himself into a variety of fields.

Until he joined Chugai Pharmaceutical, he had pursued a wide variety of research in the world of academia. As an undergraduate, he worked on detecting the genes of cultivated plants, in his master’s program, he researched the molecular evolution of snails, and in his doctoral studies, he explored the molecular mechanisms of DNA repair. Then, as a post-doctoral researcher, he traveled to the United States, where he immersed himself in researching the phenomenon of protein folding at a research hospital in Tennessee. ‘I am the type of person who cannot be satisfied unless I delve right into the heart of whatever theme I am interested in at the time (laughs). If my interest were piqued in a new field in the course of my research, I would find out which university laboratories were working on that field, approach them, and discuss it with the professors. I would then take action myself and create for myself a place where I could do the research that I wanted to do. I would not want to live with the regret of not going out and grabbing the opportunity to something that I wanted to do.’

It was his experience as a researcher in the United States that prompted his interest in going to work for a pharmaceutical company. ‘At the time, when I presented on protein folding at an academic conference, some people from a pharmaceutical company were interested in my research findings and I had the opportunity to talk to them. That was the first time that I understood that my research could lead to the creation of therapeutic antibody drugs, and I started to become interested in pursuing a career at a pharmaceutical company.’ His time working at that American research hospital also gave Shimizu a change of heart. ‘I belonged to a lab that was attached to a hospital specializing in pediatric cancer. As I spent time in an environment where patients were suffering so close by, a desire to do research that would contribute more to patients started to well up in me.’

Into the unknown of a Singapore laboratory.

Having made the decision to plunge into the world of pharmaceuticals, Shimizu’s choice of employer was Chugai Pharmaceutical. ‘At an academic conference, I became acquainted with a researcher who was working for a foreign pharmaceutical company, who listened to me and gave me various advice, one of which was that Chugai Pharmaceutical was one option if I wanted to work with antibodies. Hearing that this company had such a high standard of research, I thought that, if it was held in such high regard by people in my profession, I could not go wrong.’ After joining Chugai, Shimizu was assigned to a department that was researching genome antibody drugs, where he worked on gene cloning and protein preparation in the early stages of drug discovery, setting up antibody screening systems, and serving as research project leader. He says that, in the beginning, there were many times when he was shocked by the differences from academia. ‘If they decide that a field is promising, they will invest boldly and aggressively pursue that field. The dynamism and sense of scale was of a level I had never experienced before.’

‘What surprised me even more was that, when starting up a new research project, regardless of their career stage, the researchers in the field would use their many different kinds of scientific knowledge and debate the topic exhaustively. Even the newest members could express their opinions freely. I gained a real sense that it was precisely this kind of culture that gives birth to innovative drugs.’ In his third year with the company, when he had become familiar with the research at Chugai Pharmaceutical and had started to feel like he was making inroads, Shimizu came to a major crossroads. He was offered a post at a new laboratory that had been established in Singapore. Chugai Pharmaceutical possesses innovative technologies for the creation of antibody drugs, such as “recycling antibodies,” and it was the mission of this new laboratory to leverage those technologies to create new therapeutic antibody drugs. ‘I was asked to set up a unit over there that would be responsible for preparing the proteins that would lead to antibodies. This was a completely unfamiliar challenge for me, but I saw it as a major opportunity for my own growth, so decided to take the post in Singapore.’

This is where cutting-edge science is found.

Shimizu is currently in his sixth year in Singapore. Throughout that time, one thing he has worked hard on is building up the capabilities of the research staff in his unit. ‘Protein preparation is the starting point for the creation of antibody drugs, so if a bottleneck forms there, it can slow down the drug creation process. Raising the standard of my staff and creating an environment in which they can stay highly motivated in their research will lead to the speeding up of drug creation,’ says Shimizu. However, research is never straightforward. Those moments when, after being confront with a difficult problem, the staff all pool their collective wisdom and continue with repeated trial and error, such as changing the gene design or exploring and optimizing the expression/refinement process, and unite to find a breakthrough. Or, those moments when, after considering and implementing a new system as a fundamental solution to a difficult problem, they sense the improvement as a function. Those are the moments when Shimizu feels the most delight in his work. These days, as well as feeling a sense of reward as a researcher, he is captivated by how interesting he is finding the job of management.

Lately, he says he has more opportunities to return to Japan. His next goal is to raise the standard of research at Chugai Pharmaceutical even further. ‘Chugai Pharmaceutical is the world leader in antibody drug creation technology, but there are some technological areas in which it is still in the developing stage. I want to work together with the research teams at the Fuji Gotemba and Kamakura Research Laboratories in Japan to achieve a general improvement in the standard of research to a world-class level.’ Shimizu, who is now in his forties, says it makes him happy to be involved in cutting-edge science at this age. ‘People say that, compared to academia, researchers are not able to do the kind of research they want, but that is certainly not the case at Chugai Pharmaceutical. If you speak up and make your case, you can take on the challenge of as many research themes as you like. And, lying beyond that, there is the goal of saving patients.’ Shimizu’s challenge continues.

*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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