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TuberculosisHistory of Otsuka’s tuberculosis research

Taking up the fight against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis

When Otsuka Pharmaceutical began drug discovery in 1971 with only 14 scientists, the company selected tuberculosis (TB) as one of its first research themes. This came as a surprise to many in the industry who did not believe there was any commercial potential in the development of new TB treatments.

Thanks to a ground-breaking new TB drug discovery with rifampicin, tuberculosis had finally become curable. Many researchers and institutions around the world that had been dedicated to TB simply stopped or shifted to other areas that promised higher profits.

Many ideas were shared in this initial meeting

If Otsuka had been like other companies at the time, these young researchers would have also given up. They were also new to the field and had no clinical successes to show for their work. But because of the suffering they saw in other Asian countries nearby, they knew that one new treatment option would not be enough to help the millions of people who were dying of TB every year.

They had the vision and the foresight to recognize that TB is an extremely tenacious pathogen that finds new ways to attack the human body and resists many forms of antibiotics.

The research environment at the time

Because TB bacteria are so resilient, patients must take a regimen of several different medicines for anything from six months to a year. In the case of drug-resistant strains such as multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB)*, treatment often takes twice as long.

This led Otsuka researchers to contemplate a completely different way of attacking the MDR-TB problem.
With conventional drugs having limited efficacy, what if there was a way to chemically modify an effective, but highly potent substance, to make it safe? This thinking was outside the realm of established approaches to drug synthesis but is ultimately what led to the creation of a new and revolutionary class of TB drugs.

  • Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB): A strain of M. tuberculosis which is resistant to the drugs rifampicin and isoniazid.
Quality control building where the lab was in early years of Otsuka's TB research

Today, Otsuka remains committed to continuing its efforts in TB research and development. Recognized by the Treatment Action Group, a leading HIV/AIDS and TB advocacy group, as the largest private funder of TB R&D, Otsuka is helping deliver innovative solutions for the global TB challenge.

Tackling TB requires a coordinated effort from private industry, governments, patients, healthcare professionals, NGOs & advocates, and many others.

Otsuka is pleased to be able to work with so many partners around the world, and although we've come a long way since 1971, today is only the beginning.

TB innovation for tomorrow

The need for TB innovation - from new drugs to diagnostics to programs that provide social support for patients - is great. As time passes, the situation surrounding TB continues to change dramatically.

It is this urgent unmet need for new tools that drives Otsuka in its quest not only to support patients with a new drug, but also to develop an entire disease management package that confronts TB using a 360-degree approach.

Living with tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) can affect anyone, anywhere. From the plains of Africa to the mountains of Peru to the cities of Europe and North America, TB is a disease that knows no boundaries. But TB is not a death sentence: despite the millions of deaths each year, there are stories of hope - people who struggle hard but overcome the disease.

Therapeutic areas

Central Nervous System

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


Otsuka Pharmaceutical tackles leukemia and other blood cancers.

Cardiovascular and Renal areas

Pursuing the unlimited potential of a single chemical structure.


Helping people who suffer from eye diseases.

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