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On February 28, Otsuka Pharmaceutical signed a five-year extension of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare for cooperation in pharmaceutical product research and development.
The signing ceremony took place on a hazy but fine day in a conference room at the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sejong-ro. Otsuka was the first Japanese company to complete such a Memorandum, with the initial agreement signed on September 9, 2009.
Representing South Korea at the signing were Ministry of Health and Welfare Mr. Youngchan Lee and Mr. Seokkyu Lee from the Health Industry Promotion Division. Four Otsuka representatives attended: Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., President & Representative Director, Taro Iwamoto, Ph.D.; Korea OIAA Chairman, Dae-hyun Yoo, Ph.D.;
Korea Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company President, Mr. Sung-ho Moon and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Deputy General Manager, Headquarters of New Product Evaluation and Development, Mr. Mitsuo Hamamoto, began the ceremony by thanking Otsuka Pharmaceutical for its contribution to South Korea and for its initial decision to invest in the country.
In response, Otsuka explained the importance of South Korea in its pharmaceutical business expansion in Asia, emphasizing the contribution will continue to make medical treatment available for patients in Asia, including South Korea. The signing ceremony was characterized by a spirit of goodwill.
Otsuka Pharmaceutical vowed to continue to promote friendly relations between Japan and South Korea, and to support drug development and development of human resources in South Korea.
Part of that commitment was manifested earlier that month when nine South Korean medical students took part in the Korean Pharmaceutical Student Study Tour 2014 to Japan, the third time the tour has been held. These recipients of Otsuka Pharmaceutical awards at the Pharm Young Leader Academy, sponsored by the Korean Pharmaceutical Association had been recommended by South Korea’s academic affairs board.
The students learned about the spirit and culture of Otsuka with the aim of training them to become future leaders, internationally as well as in South Korea. They learned about the Otsuka philosophy of breaking down fixed ideas by challenging concepts and prevailing common sense. The tour is an extension of the MOU between Otsuka and the South Korean government’s Ministry of Health and Welfare for building a cooperative relationship on pharmaceutical research and development in South Korea.
The students got to observe the manufacturing of intravenous infusions – the origin of Otsuka Pharmaceutical as well as visit the Otsuka Museum of Art. Both in the lectures and during various visits, frank questions flowed in a lively fashion with youthful enthusiasm and sharpness. Each and every young person took full advantage of the training, taking their own particular learning and experiences home with them.
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The Nikkei Asian Infectious Diseases Conference was held on February 14 and 15, 2014 in Nago City, Okinawa in order to discuss measures for preventing the spread of communicable diseases in Asia. The Okinawa prefectural government and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare provided support for the conference, and Otsuka Pharmaceutical participated as a cosponsor. Otsuka presented the panel discussion on tuberculosis, which was one of the important panel discussions at the conference.
Tuberculosis is one of the three leading communicable diseases in the world, along with malaria and AIDS. Tuberculosis is said to infect one-third of the world’s population of 7 billion. Tuberculosis is a problem of the present, not the past, and not only is it a problem in developed countries, it is an even more serious problem in Asia and in developing countries. The discussion covered recent advances that have been made by Otsuka Pharmaceutical in response to the demand for new drugs, and what steps are needed to combat tuberculosis in the future.
The reason there have been no new tuberculosis drugs in 50 years is that Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a tough organism, and development is difficult and requires a tremendous amount of time and money.
Why did Otsuka Pharmaceutical want to take on such a challenge? One reason is that for more than 40 years Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s corporate philosophy has been to improve the health of people around the world. A second reason is related to Otsuka’s global presence – Otsuka opened a plant in Thailand in 1973 and one in China in 1980, and now has approximately 30,000 employees around the world, 70% of whom are employed overseas. And 70% of these overseas workers are in Asia, and are therefore living, with their families, in high-burden tuberculosis countries. A third reason is that, since opening a research institute in 1971, Otsuka’s stated research mission has been to not conduct any imitative research, but to conduct research that is unique to Otsuka, research that, in fact, only Otsuka is capable of conducting, in order to discover first-in-class drugs. Moreover, Otsuka was able to forcefully pursue tuberculosis research because it was the idea of Akihiko Otsuka, Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s current Chairman.
Research began in 1982 but efficacy was not met and the research failed. Because tuberculosis is a tough organism that grows slowly over 24 hours, Otsuka instead adopted an approach that involved searching for a drug that was not only potent, but also toxic, and then trying to ameliorate the toxicity later. This is the exact opposite of the conventional approach. Together with partner laboratories, Otsuka synthesized 14,000 types of compounds and, in 2002, discovered a promising novel compound; clinical studies were initiated in 2004.
As a future research activity, Otsuka would like to try to establish a global regimen that includes new tuberculosis drugs in order to prevent the emergence of strains that are resistant to new drugs. Dr. Ishikawa said that Otsuka’s aim is to discover an anti-tuberculosis drug that can be used to treat latent tuberculosis infections and that can cure tuberculosis quickly, in 1 to 2 months, in order to prevent the emergence of multidrug-resistant strains.
The emergence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and the movement of people from developing to developed countries (the moving of tuberculosis/communicable diseases) are major problems in Asia and Japan. Around the globe, 940,000 people die of tuberculosis, approximately 70% of them in Asia, and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis accounts for 187,000 deaths. Dr. Shimao said that Japan’s role should be to develop simple techniques that allow multidrug-resistant strains to be detected and new drugs to follow in the footsteps of Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s new anti-tuberculosis drug.
Every year, there are 450,000 cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Pandemic regions are Southeast Asia, which accounts for 40%, Africa, which accounts for 26%, and the Central and South America, which accounts for 19%. Overlapping infection with HIV or the presence of a multidrug-resistant strain results in a cure rate of no more than approximately 50%. In the absence of a cure, the death rate is 90%. New drugs that can effect a rapid cure and new drugs that can be used to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and that have little hepatotoxicity and few drug interactions are needed. Even though tuberculosis is the world’s tenth most lethal disease, only 5 to 8 products are currently in development. Tuberculosis is a disease that must not be forgotten, as it is far from gone.
The conference was attended by researchers and governmental representatives from all over Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia; there were 30 presenters, and 150 participants in all, from both Japan and abroad. Japan is closely connected to other countries in Asia through a web of economic, personal and other ties. Communicable diseases pose the biggest danger to health in Asia, and Japan needs to play a leading role in combating them. The official statement of the conference asserted the need for the creation of an Asian network for fighting communicable diseases.
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The Otsuka Museum of Art hosted the fifth Sistine Kabuki production – The Marriage of Figaro – for 3 days, on February 14, 15, and 16. Tickets sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. Two performances were held each day in Tokushima, Japan and were attended by about 2600 visitors.
From its inception, "Sistine Kabuki" productions have been based on the themes of Japanese-Western collaboration and the creation of innovative kabuki theater.
The current production – the Marriage of Figaro – is the first Sistine Kabuki comedy, and was based on Mozart's opera of the same name. Kazuo Mizuguchi produced and directed, and Kanjuro Fujima handled the choreography. Amidst the strains of Western and Japanese traditional music performed by the Tokushima Indoor String Quartet, two large stages, one in front and one in the rear of the audience, connected by an elevated "flower way" walkway, as well as a small stage placed almost in the middle of the "flower way," used the majesty of the 40-meter Sistine Hall to great effect.
The Marriage of Figaro was set in Spain, but for this production the setting was moved to the country of Awa (present-day Tokushima), and the story was modified somewhat. Starting with the third performance, Ainosuke Kataoka played the roles corresponding to both Figaro and the Ronin who appears in this production. Kazutaro Nakamura played the role of Susanna, Kichiya Kamimura played the role of Countess Rosina Almaviva, Shouzou Uesugi played the role of Count Almaviva, and Miya Setouchi, a former star of the Takarazuka Review musical theater troupe and a native of Tokushima, played the role of Marcellina.
The love story of Figaro, the head of Count Almaviva's servant-staff, and his bride-to-be Susanna is complicated by Countess Rosina's desire for revenge against her husband the count, who is attempting to seduce Susanna, by the efforts of Marcellina to use trickery to compel Figaro to marry her, and by the efforts of the Ronin to re-establish his house and title. The tanuki "racoon dog" legends of the land of Awa and the machinations of the various characters came to life in the Otsuka Museum of Art's Sistine Hall.
The Sistine Kabuki productions have attracted considerable media attention for the use of flamenco in the third production (GOEMON) and modern music and Western dance in the previous production (Shiro Amakusa). This production continued this trend, incorporating samba rhythms, and including songs sung by the performers, which is extremely rare in kabuki, and has thus led to this production attracting attention as a "Kabuki musical."
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After claiming the right to play in J1 League*1, after beating 3rd placed Kyoto Sanga 2-0 in the playoff final, Tokushima Vortis became the first team ever from the Shikoku region to play in the top league in Japan. They are now training hard in order to stay in J1 League they had fought so hard to get in.
Vortis was coined from the Italian word 'vortice', which means 'whirlpool'. In Naruto City, part of the club's hometown, you can see lively whirling tides at the Naruto Strait. The name was chosen to exhibit the dynamics of a whirlpool in the hope of swallowing up the whole audience in excitement by its power, speed and unity.
Every match, the team tries its best to engage its fans by giving their best. With players from Brazil and South Korea as members of its team, Vortis has been a force to be reckoned with.
Shikoku is the smallest of Japan's four principal islands and the club's hometown is the entire prefecture of Tokushima, including the prefectural capital of Tokushima City.
After being founded as the soccer division of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory Inc. in 1955, the club entered the Japan Football League (JFL) via the Japan Soccer League. In 2005 as the club entered the J. League and participated in J2, it adopted the current name, Tokushima Vortis. The team has been sponsored by POCARI SWEAT since entering the J. League.
Tokushima Vortis coach Shinji Kobayashi, was appointed ahead of the 2012 season. In 2002 he won the J2 title with Oita Trinita and he also guided Montedio Yamagata to a second-place finish and promotion to J1 in 2008. He has demonstrated his skills with Vortis too and has been nicknamed the 'promotion contractor'.
Having started his career as a teacher, Coach Kobayashi said he has found pure joy in nurturing his players and watching them succeed in their own soccer careers.
Unlike any big budget teams that have the ability to acquire established soccer players, Vortis is a team that offers opportunities to those who were passed over. Because Vortis a team that nurtures today’s athletes to becoming tomorrow’s superstars.
Coach Kobayashi promised his team to keep all original players and pointed out that it was extremely important for the team members to not get seriously injured. Another must is for the team to up its game by shortening their response times. He said J1 is totally different from J2. J1 team players have remarkable stamina and speed. And of course, fans’ support and cheering them on live at the matches make all the difference!