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Otsuka Pharmaceutical tackles leukemia and other blood cancers

Cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all diseases worldwide. In Japan too it is the number one cause of death, and naturally, there is an urgent need for new drugs. In 1983 Otsuka established the Fujii Memorial Research Institute (originally the Biwako Research Institute), and has been engaged in anti-cancer drug research since, especially in the field of blood cancers, aspiring to help cancer patients worldwide. Otsuka is providing new treatment options in collaboration with both domestic and foreign collaborators.

In 2008, Otsuka Pharmaceutical acquired the entire business built around the drug for the conditioning regimen prior to hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation and rolled out the product globally. As a pre-treatment prior to hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation carried out as a part of treatment for all forms of blood cancer, this drug is contributing to patients as a necessary drug that ranks alongside radiation therapy.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical further strengthened its R&D structure in the field of oncology by welcoming the US-based bio-venture company Astex Pharmaceuticals, as a subsidiary. Astex possesses proprietary molecular design-based drug discovery technology. Together, the two companies are carrying out innovative new drug discovery using a novel approach.Otsuka also signed an agreement with ARIAD Pharmaceuticals* to commercialize ARIAD's treatment for resistant and intolerant chronic myeloid leukemia in ten Asian countries and regions including Japan, and to fund future clinical trials in those countries. Sales in Japan began in 2016.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical aims to contribute to the field of oncology in both diagnosis and treatment, providing not only therapeutic drugs but also diagnostic pharmaceuticals. It has developed and markets products used in the monitoring of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Also, it has been marketing in Japan an international-standard in-vitro diagnostic reagent that can be used as a diagnostic aid and to monitor treatment effects in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Going forward, we will contribute to malignant hematopoietic disease through our diagnostic reagents business.

  • Acquired by Takeda in 2017

Strengthening collaborations in oncology

We collaborate with companies and academia conducting specialized research based on wholly new approaches.

Astex Pharmaceuticals (U.S., U.K.)
Astex, a leading company in fragment-based drug discovery, became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical in 2013. Fragment-based drug discovery is a molecular design technique in which the interaction between a fragment of a very small molecule and a large protein molecule involved in a disease is identified using X-ray diffraction. This unique approach can be used to help create innovative new drugs.
Astex has also played a leading role in establishing the first-ever cryo-electron microscopy* consortium that is able to view three-dimensional structures, such as proteins, at the atomic level. Together with participating companies and researchers at the University of Cambridge, we aim to utilize the approach in our drug discovery research.
  • Three researchers who contributed to the development of the observation method received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017.
Takara Bio (Japan)
In 2016, we entered a license agreement for Japan-based development and sales of the oncolytic virus HF10 under development by Takara Bio Inc. as a cancer treatment drug. Oncolytic viruses hold promise to directly destroy cancer cells by specifically proliferating only inside those cells. Clinical trials are underway for malignant melanoma and pancreatic cancer. In 2018, we also entered into an agreement to jointly develop two kinds of gene therapy drugs.
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Osaka University (Japan)
In 2017, we entered into a comprehensive collaborations agreement on advanced research with IFReC (Osaka University Immunology Frontier Research Center). Otsuka supports further development of IFReC’s advanced basic research on immunology with the aim of combining the research results with original research by Otsuka, leading to the development of new drugs for the benefit of all. In 2018, we also entered into an exclusive licensing agreement on a novel "CAR-T Cell Therapy" for multiple myeloma.

Therapeutic areas

Central Nervous System

Aiming for the social reintegration of patients with psychiatric and neurological disorders.

Cardiovascular and Renal areas

Pursuing the unlimited potential of a single chemical structure.


Living with tuberculosis.


Helping people who suffer from eye diseases.