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Someone who appreciates her colleagues and loves a challenge.

Azusa Toya

Pharmaceutical Technology Div.
API Process Development Dept.
Since 2013

With the support of many.

Azusa Toya returned to work only a few months ago after giving birth last year. ‘My main job at the moment is working a project for the construction of a new laboratory building at the Ukima Research Laboratories. My real job is in the process development of low molecular weight compounds, but experiment-dominated work would, quite frankly, be difficult to manage while caring for a small child, who can get sometimes get sick at the drop of a hat. It was for this reason that I asked to be assigned to this job.’ Toya has recently gone back to regular working hours and uses the work-from-home scheme as necessary. ‘There is not much overtime. My boss makes sure at every opportunity that my workload is not unreasonable and my fellow team members are incredibly supportive. I really appreciate the understanding and cooperation of so many people, including my family, that has allowed me to find a balance between working and parenting.’

Toya first became interested in chemistry when she was in high school after listening to a lecture by a famous professor in the area of organic chemistry. At university, in her undergraduate and master’s studies, she researched the total synthesis of natural substances that are effective in the deactivation of cancer cells. She says that her ambition to work for a pharmaceuticals company was a natural progression from that research. She interviewed with about ten companies and Chugai Pharmaceutical left the most favorable impression. ‘When I took part in a tour of the company, it struck me that the people I saw looked lively and energetic in their work, and I could conjure up a real image of myself working there. I also have good memories of my interview. My sense that the interviewer was trying to gain a deep understanding of both the content of my research to date and my own character was another reason why I decided on Chugai.’

So many rare experiences.

So far, Toya has had a number of experiences in her work that are quite rare, even in her department. In her first and second years at the company, she was involved in the global approval application process for ALECENSA (alectinib), a treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer. She spent her days in a constant cycle of obtaining data for the application and preparing English documentation, so ALECENSA could be delivered around the world. At the time, she found the work stressful due to her lack of English proficiency and feeling that all she wanted to do was experiments, but looking back now, Toya describes it as an invaluable experience. ‘Global approval applications do not come along every day. In fact, that was the first global approval application for a low molecular weight pharmaceutical in Chugai Pharmaceutical’s long history.’

In her third year with the company, Toya was assigned to her dream job of process development for low molecular weight compounds, as well as liaising with contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs), and in her fourth year, she took maternity and parental leave. Since returning to work, as mentioned earlier, she has been involved in the new laboratory building construction project. This is actually the first new laboratory to be built in thirty years, so offers an opportunity for more new experiences. Construction is outside her field of specialization, so everything is new to her, but she is learning all the time as she deliberates on the construction plan with the people from the construction company. ‘I am so lucky to be able to have a hand in creating a lab that I might one day use myself (laughs). Besides, this project has made me discover another personal strength, namely, my ability to find enjoyment in any kind of new challenge.’ Toya recently took part in a community service activity on Cebu Island during company training, which she says has given her new perspective. ‘As I communicated in English with the local cooperating members, I decided that I really wanted to study English in earnest. I have more and more occasions at work to use English and I just really want to share my thoughts and feelings with more people. When I came home from Cebu, I made a point of making more time for myself and I have started taking online English conversation classes.’

A bird’s-eye perspective.

Toya says that she had her concerns while she was on parental leave. ‘Spending all that time one-on-one with my child was lovely in some respects, but quite challenging in others. I struggled a little with not being able to sense a connection with society. When I returned to work, I realized that cooperating with others to produce results and being of service to society in some way make me happy. In Chugai Pharmaceutical’s research positions, cooperating with your team members and people from other departments is essential. I believe that people like me, who find meaning in joining forces with colleagues to work toward a single major outcome, are suited to those positions.’ Chugai Pharmaceutical also offers opportunities to gain a real sense of contributing to patients. ‘After my experience with the global approval application for ALECENSA, I saw in the company magazine a letter of appreciation from a patient who had used this drug. I was truly delighted to read that. It gave me a real sense that the work that I do is definitely helping to save people.’

Going forward, Toya wants to consider her whole job from a bird’s-eye perspective. That is one of her aspirations. ‘Until now, I have not been all that conscious of the processes that come before or after my own work. However, if I can understand the whole picture and gain a deeper understanding of the significance and purpose of what I am working on, I believe I will be able to contribute even further to creating drugs and services that will benefit society. In the future, I want to be involved in management and oversee the business and organization as a whole.’ While hoping to one day develop a broader perspective, Toya today is putting her all into the work in front of her.

*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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