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The awards ceremony for the 60th annual Okochi Prize (awarded by the Okochi Memorial Foundation) was held on March 26 at the Industrial Club of Japan. The highest honor, the Okochi Memorial Prize was awarded to the Otsuka researchers for the development of aripiprazole, a drug for the treatment of schizophrenia.
The Otsuka recipients received the highest honor, the Okochi Memorial Prize, for the development of aripiprazole. At the awards ceremony, Corporate Advisor Yasuo Oshiro, on behalf all of the recipients, thanked the Foundation for the award, and stated the recipients’ determination to contribute to society, as expressed by Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s corporate motto “Otsuka—people creating new products for better health worldwide.”
The Okochi Memorial Foundation was established in 1954 in honor of Dr. Masatoshi Okochi, who was the third president of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research and who held that position from 1917 to 1946, for his contributions to academia and industry. The Foundation began awarding prizes for the purpose of “promoting the use of science and technology for practical applications.”
The Okochi Prizes are awarded to individuals, groups of individuals, or companies to recognize their contributions to Japan’s industrial technology. Each year, one Okochi Memorial Production Prize and five Okochi Memorial Technology Prizes are awarded. And recipients are selected following careful review by a review board consisting of 20 individuals, including university professors, and by the board of directors of the Okochi Memorial Foundation.
Aripiprazole has been approved in more than 70 countries around the world, and is the only third- generation drug recognized for the treatment of schizophrenia, having a novel structure that is not possessed by conventional drugs, which have a carbostyril skeleton.
Aripiprazole acts as a partial D2 receptor agonist to stabilize neurotransmision and improve both the positive and the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and is also characterized by fewer adverse reactions.
The Okochi Memorial Prize was awarded based not only on the results that have been achieved in the field of life sciences, but also on the achievements that have been attained in the field of production technology, such as the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation Imperial Invention Prize received in 2012.
Aripiprazole is manufactured using a cost-effective manufacturing method that allows a large quantity of high-purity product to be manufactured and a process in which a water-based solvent with little environmental impact is used. Bulk manufacture has achieved zero emission status. A method allowing the stable manufacture of specific anhydride crystals, which had previously been difficult, was achieved through the inventiveness and creativity of manufacturing personnel. The establishment of a robust manufacturing process in the Production Department has enabled stable supply of drug substance on a commercial scale.
Many of the people working in the Manufacturing Department who contributed greatly to aripiprazole’s success attended the awards ceremony and were recognized for their achievement.
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At the “Healthcare in Asia 2014”, leaders and numerous other senior officials from national governments and international agencies from Asian countries, including The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, gave speeches to share their thoughts on how to move forward with healthcare for Asian countries. Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. was the lead sponsor for this annual event hosted by the Economist Conferences, publisher of the esteemed magazine The Economist. The event was held on March 20th and March 21st in Singapore.
Patrizia Carlevaro, the Managing Director of Otsuka SA in Geneva, Switzerland, spoke during a session highlighting the issue of multidrug resistant tuberculosis in Asia.
Ms. Carlevaro said after HIV/AIDS, TB remains the second greatest infectious disease killer in the world. In 2012, TB caused 8.6 million new illnesses and 1.3 million deaths. The disease is present in every country in the world and knows no borders. Nonetheless, Asia shares its disproportionate burden, with almost 60% of the incidences of all forms of TB.
Ms. Carlevaro continued to explain that we have few tools to enable us to win with TB. Most current diagnostic tools and vaccines are largely ineffective, and treatment options are limited. Moreover, in the last 40 years only 2 new TB drugs have been approved.
Government and donor intervention is necessary. Private industry cannot conquer TB alone. With almost 9 million people getting sick every year, clearly, TB control is in worldwide public interest and can be thought of as a public good. The private sector plays a significant role in the provision of TB care, hence it must be included in any public health approach to TB control.
In Indonesia almost 40% of patients consult private practitioners in case of illness. In India about 80% of all the qualified doctors, 75% of the dispensaries, 60% of the hospitals, and 75% of the country’s health expenditure are all in the private sector.
Apart from the need for political commitment, more funding and medical research is crucial along with involving all the health care providers—both public and private—into the debate. Especially in Asia, as a large proportion of patients consult private doctors, go to private hospitals, and buy from private pharmacists, TB cannot be controlled unless the private practitioners are involved.
Not enough is done to overcome these obstacles. The political commitment to controlling TB in some governments remains low. And, since TB knows no borders, unless everyone joins, no one can fully win.
As the lead sponsor of Healthcare in Asia, Otsuka had a booth where Otsuka staffs were on hand to explain facts about MDR-TB and the company’s long-standing commitment to TB research and development. Visitors to the booth also enjoyed refreshing rehydrating POCARI SWEAT and nutritional SOYJOY bars.
Lead sponsor: Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Supporting sponsors: Cigna, Mundipharma International, Pfizer, Philips, Vifor Pharma
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A glass-clad tower that reflects the sky is Otsuka Osaka’s unique and innovative presence that is now the new office for Otsuka group companies in Japan’s second largest city. This new building with unprecedented construction method with window frames function as load-bearing pillars, eliminating pillars throughout the office areas and creating unique open and airy spaces, was designed to bring out the best from a diverse group of employees.
Instead of the common approach of straight beams located inside windows, Otsuka’s new office building employs crossed, slanted beams for increased strength also functioning as seismic control structures. Incorporating the windows into the beams makes the office more spacious and inviting. Pillars have been placed diagonally for increased strength and incorporated into the window frames to make the workspaces larger and easier to use.
The generous expanse of glass reflects the sky, resulting in a bright, translucent presence. The innovative design is characterized by glass extending all the way to the corners. The bright open space is to allow each individual the freedom to utilize his or her own unique creative instincts to come up with innovative ideas and products. We expect our new workplace to generate flexible thinking and original ideas, freed from conventional stereotypes.
Old Boys’ (Old Girls’) Club is another area where creative juices can be exchanged without the seriousness of a conference room. OB Club first opened its doors at the Tokyo headquarters in Kanda in 1986. Less than a year later, Osaka office opened its own. To continue the idea of offering a relaxing space for employees to gather, a new OB Club was added in the Shinagawa office in 2007. With the opening of the new office is Osaka, the former Osaka OB Club was replaced with a new one.
Otsuka believes that utilizing the talents of a diverse group of individuals who are not constrained by nationality, gender, or other prejudices promotes innovation and globalization, and Otsuka will therefore continue its efforts to create an employee-friendly work environment.
This is Otsuka Group’s second office building in Osaka.
Atop Osaka’s first Otsuka office building, still in use, is the upside down map that can be seen from the new building.
Chairman Otsuka had come across an artist who depicted the world map upside down. That was when it struck him that Otsuka needs to view the world in a totally new way, other than how it has always been depicted.
It is to remind Otsuka employees to think differently rather than to follow the convention that this map is prominently displayed on top of the building.
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Otsuka Pharmaceutical is the first pharmaceutical company to be awarded the “Diversity Management Selection 100”, for successfully creating a more female-friendly workplace.
This award is given by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to companies that have used diversity management to increase their value, as a way of increasing recognition and awareness of efforts to promote diversity and increasing the number of companies who promote diversity. The ministry plans to give this award to approximately 100 companies in total over a 3-year period, which started in 2012. In 2012, 43 companies received the award and 2013, 46 received it.
In the opening speech of the State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ms. Midori Matsushima said, “It is Otsuka’s hope that the promotion of diversity by various means will contribute not only to the company’s growth, but to the growth of the entire Japanese economy. Otsuka would like to see the best practices of the companies receiving this award spur the growth and expansion of Japanese industry.”
Ms. Matsushima pointed out that, “Different companies are employing various means to achieve results. Otsuka Pharmaceuticals’ SoyCarat, which is prominently displayed in many stores, was developed by a female researcher. The Japanese name for this snack, “SoyKara,” comes from the rattling sound of the snack “kara kara”, when the soybean pods are shaken.” Making the product enjoyable to all five senses and a healthy one too, since it is baked and not fried.
Women account for 11.4% of Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s executives, compared to industry average of 1.2%*1. More than 20% of Otsuka’s MRs are female, compared to an average of 10% at other companies.*2 The number of female Otsuka employees who continue to work after giving birth is 11 times higher than what it was 6 years ago in 2007 when Otsuka Women’s Workshops were first held. Otsuka has also implemented flexible work arrangements to allow for child care and has made it its goal to open more company day care centers.
Mothers-to-be get full pay before and after birth (during maternity leave), including full bonus pay even though the law mandates two-thirds pay and can get up to 1.5 years of maternity/child care leave. To help Otsuka’s employees who are parents with young children, they can opt for shortened work days, which are available to those with children not yet in first grade. Also flexible work hours, from confirmation of the pregnancy until the child enters 8th grade is available.
Since the 1980s, when the concept of “diversity” was not yet widely recognized, Otsuka Pharmaceutical has believed that the creation of innovative products and ideas requires utilizing the talents of a diverse group of individuals. The Otsuka senior management has been promoting diversity aggressively since then.
Starting in the 1990s, Otsuka made a more female-friendly workplace a specific goal, with initiatives that included organizing “Women’s Forums.” There’s also Otsuka Women’s Workshops for sharing information about child care with female MRs who are married, pregnant, or have given birth. These workshops have been held since 2007. Male employees are not left out. There are “Ikumen” seminars (“Ikumen” - a Japanese term that loosely means “involved dad”) aimed primarily at male employees to promote a healthy work—life balance.