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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the October 3, 2001
edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Rising Sun in Princeton
You could call Mikihiko Obayashi "the old Princeton
hand." He’s been in Princeton much longer than the other Japanese
and when his job left town, he stayed.
For more than 35 years Obayashi worked for Takeda, Japan’s largest
pharmaceutical firm, most recently at the Carnegie Center as president
of Takeda America’s Research and Development Center, a 35-person
In the pharmaceutical business, both inside and outside of Japan,
he has an almost legendary reputation for breaking away from
and getting results quickly. While in Princeton he pulled off an
win, to bring a diabetes drug, Actos, to market at just the right
time, and in less time than a larger competitor.
But when his group of Takeda America consolidated to Lincolnshire,
Illinois, Obayashi opted to stay in Princeton. He joined Quintiles,
a North Carolina-based global organization, to set
up a new division to work with Japanese and American pharmaceutical
Quintiles Transnational is a leading provider of information,
and services to bring new medicines to market. Based near Research
Park, North Carolina, it has 19,000 employees in 38 countries.
Japan International Desk will offer consulting services and give
companies access to services ranging from clinical development to
commercialization, to healthcare market information. It will
Japan Pharma Centers that Quintiles opened last year in Kansas City,
Missouri, and Edinburgh, Scotland.
"Our clients are Japanese pharmaceutical companies, and we are
going to help them develop new products in the United States,"
says Obayashi. Though he declines to name potential clients, the four
companies right here in Princeton would be likely candidates.
"We have the capability for a wide range," says Obayashi,
"and we call ourselves a contract pharmaceutical organization
(a CPO) rather than a CRO (contract research organization). We can
do contract research, formulation, toxicology work, clinical studies
in animals and humans, and approval by the FDA. We have a sales
in Quintiles and can help them sell their products."
Obayashi just moved from Alexander Park to 3,000 square feet on the
third floor of Princeton Overlook, a space found for him by Victor
Murray, now with the Aegis Group. As with the group he established
for Takeda, he is functioning as a virtual company,
hiring services as he needs them, explaining that he would rather
spend money on brains than on infrastructure. He has four people here
now, plus one in North Carolina, but expects to hire several more
over the next year.
The son of a schoolteacher, Obayashi studied chemistry at Tokyo
graduating in 1965, and earning a doctor’s degree from the University
of Tohoku, near Tokyo. He had a lifelong career with Takeda, starting
out as a chemist discovering new compounds such as Lupron Depot (for
prostate cancer and endometriosis). But getting products through the
USFDA was a problem, so in 1975 he was put in charge of international
Obayashi set up Takeda’s American arm, Takeda Pharmaceuticals America
(TPA), and formed an alliance with Abbott Laboratories, TAP
moving to Lincolnshire, Illinois (near Chicago) in 1981. He served
as a technical translator between the TAP/Abbott and Takeda scientists
in working on new formulations. TAP brought a successful version of
Lupron to the U.S. marketplace in 1990, and it represents about
of TAP’s sales. The other big TAP product is Prevacid, a proton pump
inhibitor for gastrointestinal ulcers.
But Obayashi wanted Takeda to have its own R&D unit. He moved to
with his wife and two teenagers in 1993 and set up Takeda America
Research and Development Center in 1997. He says he chose Princeton
partly because it is a pharmaceutical center, and partly because he
wanted independence from TAP, the liaison with Abbott.
Obayashi’s 1999 win with the diabetes drug, Actos, was a heroic feat,
writes Wayne Koberstein, editor of the trade magazine Pharmaceutical
Executive: "It made Takeda the first Japanese company to introduce
its own blockbuster in that market." Takeda began work on its
Type 2 diabetes treatment, Actos, much later than Smith Kline Beecham
began work a competitive drug, Avandia, but FDA approvals came almost
simultaneously. "That’s quite an accomplishment in light of the
disparity between Takeda’s tiny development team and the rival
huge R&D organization," says Koberstein.
Wanting to stay here was not the only reason he declined to make the
move to Chicago when his R&D group consolidated with Takeda America
Pharmaceuticals. The other reason is, that at 60 years old, he wanted
a change. "I thought a younger guy should take over my position.
For Takeda’s future, we have to educate younger people to be our
employees," he says. "I did not really make a sacrifice,
I could have another interesting business — like working for
Takeda was formerly Quintiles’ client, and to be on the other side
of the fence, he predicts, will very different. "I always like
to do new things. After working for Takeda for 35 plus years it is
time for me to do something new.
Not only is the Quintiles job a new one, his first since he left
but he is working for an American firm. Clearly, he likes that. Says
Obayashi, "The working environment is different."
Park, Suite 205, Princeton 08540. Mikihiko Obayashi Ph.D. president.
609-452-0505; fax, 609-452-0055.
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