The Scientific Method
Gary Gabrielsen, head of business development at Astellas Pharma US, is upbeat when asked about the company's widely perceived
need for a new drug to launch as profits from Prograf, Flomax, and Vesicare go south. "Astellas will not hesitate to invest
in a late-stage product or any product that fits in with its larger strategy to develop its core therapeutic areas," says
But is Astellas actively looking for a late-stage product?
"Business development is an ongoing process. We're always looking at a mix of all kinds of partnerships and of products. Sometimes
the focus may be a little more on one than the others," Gabrielsen notes.
But Gabrielsen does not deny Astellas' problem. He says that most of Big Pharma finds itself between the rock of patent expiration
and the hard place of low innovation. But he does not say that Astellas is trying to solve the problem by looking for a late-stage
It may be that (announced layoffs and projected shortfalls notwithstanding) Astellas is secure enough to keep its eye on the
prize of "Vision 2015." Says Decision Resources' Jackie Innes: "Astellas says it will consider all options, but in reality
they will probably do nothing out of the blue. They will both augment their portfolio and gain presence slowly."
"Relative to other companies, Astellas may not be ready to deal with the oncoming patent loss," Toshiaki Iituka says. "They
just merged in 2005 and may need to sort out internally what management decisions need to be made."
If Japanese pharmas are moving in the same direction as Big Pharma in general—oncology, biologics, emerging markets—it remains
to be seen if their management is doing the same. US and European companies are increasingly promoting a new generation of
younger leaders who have rotated through several different countries, if not continents. On the other hand, the image many
have of us have of Japanese corporations, however inaccurate, is of an aging hierarchical structure with a 90-year-old CEO
a the top.
Innovation also increasingly requires diversity, the creativity of differences. "To succeed as a truly global player," says
IMS's Ray Hill, "Companies are going to have diverse management teams, international perspectives—exactly what comes from
doing business with people of all nationalities."
For now, says Hill, "Japanese culture is very monolithic, and the companies tend to be run by a group of Japanese guys. That
is a serious shortcoming."
But he, like most other analysts we interviewed, believe that it is only a matter of time—and, of course, trial and error—before
the Japanese Pharma League's "going out" leads to going truly global.