Obayashi: Liaison To Japan’s Pharmas

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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the October 3, 2001

edition of U.S.

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Obayashi: Liaison To Japan’s Pharmas

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."

Quintiles Japan International Desk, 300 Alexander

Park, Suite 205, Princeton 08540. Mikihiko Obayashi Ph.D. president.

609-452-0505; fax, 609-452-0055.

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