“Patients need and deserve innovation” – A Pharma Day Q&A with Otsuka

Sep 13, 2023

The following is an interview with Haru Sugino, PhD, the Head of Global Search & Evaluation at Otsuka. To learn more about Otsuka’s approach to innovation and partnering, register for Otsuka Pharma Day on Wednesday, October 4, 2023 in the MassBioHub.

What does innovation mean at Otsuka?

At Otsuka, our driving philosophy is to serve those with unmet medical needs. Patient centricity ensures we deliver valuable and additive solutions that are easy for patients to adopt and integrate into their daily lives. But we won’t be able to do it alone and patients need and deserve innovation so that they may realize their full potential. By working together, we can inspire and achieve continued innovation across the industry to address the medical needs of patients, and more broadly across the entire healthcare delivery chain.

Why is Otsuka working with MassBio to support emerging companies? Massachusetts is known for its density of emerging biotechs. How does tapping into MassBio’s network, relationships, and convening power advance Otsuka’s business goals and support startups?

MassBio does a fantastic job connecting innovators in the densest biotech cluster in the world.  Otsuka is coming back for the 4th time since 2017 to meet companies that share our vision to bring new drugs to patients in the most challenging diseases of the brain, the kidney, and the immune system.  It is also our first year to sponsor a Golden Ticket competition with Biolabs, together with our Waltham based affiliate, Visterra.  Together with MassBio and innovative therapies born in Massachusetts, we strive to fulfill our corporate mission, “Otsuka – people creating new products for better health worldwide.”

In what priority areas are Otsuka engaging partners and what kinds of companies are being considered for partnering?

We collaborate with organizations that share a like-minded mission of delivering treatments to patients in the areas of neuroscience, nephrology, rare autoimmune diseases and digital innovation. Collaborators should share values of innovation, scientific rigor, and urgency to address unmet medical needs and thus make a meaningful impact on patients’ lives. We do not follow a “one-size-fits-all” approach; instead, we seek to collaborate with companies who share empathy and align on mutual goals, as well as mission and vision.

Partnering goes well beyond R&D. In what ways will Otsuka bring value to emerging companies seeking to grow their enterprises? 

We take pride in our track record of achieving challenging clinical endpoints in difficult indications through scientific rigor and operational excellence: overcoming placebo effect in psychiatry, establishing novel clinical endpoints in nephrology, adding innovative new indications to our drugs post-approval, generating the data that helps patients benefit from our drugs.  We have the utmost respect for innovators.  As demonstrated by our acquisition of Visterra, we like to give those teams autonomy and keep them intact, while providing the resources to bring their innovations to approval and thus to patients.

About the Author

Haru Sugino, PhD, is Head of Global Search & Evaluation at Otsuka. His team focuses on scouting IND ready and clinical stage (phase 1 to NDA) therapeutics in psychiatry, neurology, nephrology, and rare auto-immune diseases.

Haru joined Otsuka in 1997.  He is a neuroscientist by training and worked on brexpiprazole from discovery to FDA approval in 2015. As the global project coordinator for brexpiprazole’s clinical development, Haru moved to the US in 2010, then to Europe in 2012,  coordinating global clinical regulatory, commercial and manufacturing activities. After the successful FDA approval of Rexulti (brexpiprazole) for dual indications in schizophrenia and adjunctive therapy in major depressive disorder (MDD), Haru established Otsuka’s US based business development team in 2015. As the leader of that team he has been instrumental in recent collaboration deals with Sunovion and Click Therapeutics, among others. Currently based in Princeton, NJ, Haru assumed responsibility for Otsuka’s global business development search & evaluation activities in 2023.

Haru holds PhD from Kyoto Prefecture University of Medicine in neuroscience, and is an EMBA candidate at Columbia Business School.

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