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Life of a Scientist at Chugai Pharmabody Research
From Research Scientist to CEO, Dr Tomoyuki Igawa shares with us his scientific career and the challenges he faced along the way.

I became a scientist because…

I loved to create something new and wanted to give back to the society based on what I have learnt.

I chose to work in this field because…

I got into the pharmaceutical industry by chance. When I was looking for a job, I knew nothing about the pharmaceutical business as well as antibody drug using biotechnology which we are now specializing on at Chugai Pharmabody Research (CPR). I wanted to work in a science-based company where there is a start-up atmosphere and culture, and where scientists can play an important role in the company; and that was Chugai.

A typical day in the lab is…

I am no longer working in the lab. However, when I am in the office, I try to make time to have discussions with researchers and weekly meetings with all researchers to review research plans, share knowledge or discuss on our research. In CPR’s innovative operation, researchers usually spend more than 10 per cent of time on brainstorming new ideas. On the other hand, scientists or research associates (Laboratory technicians whose main responsibility is conducting actual experiment) are focusing on improvement of efficiency and trying to make the existing process platform much better; with reduced cost, and lesser time spent, thereby streamlining the process. For continuous innovative drug development, we incorporate what we have learnt into day-to-day work, and that allows us to achieve continuous improvement, problem solving skills and think highly of the learning environment.

Outside of the lab, I am also involved in...

Outside of the lab, I am also involved in providing lectures and presentations at conferences or events, especially when a new Chugai origin drug is launched. A great example would be a science and technology lecture on the drug discovery of antibody therapeutics and research activities in CPR that was held at the Japan Creative Centre on Tuesday, 29 August 2017. The lecture was attended by various guests including Singaporeans and high school students. The Q&A session following the lecture was a good platform to address any queries by the attendees, particularly the students who were keen to find out more about the biomedical field that they were planning to pursue in their next course of study. Furthermore, I am also involved in writing for scientific magazines and textbooks for university students in the biotechnology field.

My lab is currently working on...

In the global medical field, there are many diseases in which there is a lack of drugs to address the medical needs of patients. CPR is committed to address these unmet needs by specializing in the field of antibody drug discovery utilising proprietary antibody engineering technologies. We are continuously creating innovative antibody drug clinical candidates by fully utilizing proprietary antibody engineering technologies established by Chugai such as Recycling Antibody®, Sweeping Antibody®, bispecific antibody and other novel types of antibody, along with establishing novel antibody engineering technologies to solve the unmet medical needs.

In the future, we hope that…

In the future, we hope that CPR will be one of the most successful antibody drug research centres in Asia, where we can engage talented scientists not only from Singapore but also from the region, to learn our cutting-edge technologies and drug discovery skills, to contribute to establishing the ecosystem of antibody drug discovery in the region. Additionally, we look forward to seeing a CPR discovered antibody drug to be approved and used for patients globally as a first Singapore origin antibody drug.

The biggest challenge in my job is…

The biggest challenge in my job is to continuously create new ideas for drug discovery in a highly competitive field by collaborating with scientists from diverse backgrounds, expertise, cultures and nationalities.

The biggest misconception about scientists is probably…

The biggest misconception about scientists is probably that they wear casual outfits, have less time dedicated to exercise, work longer hours, and that they wear a lab coat for most of their time.

We have recently published…

  1. Long lasting neutralization of C5 by SKY59, a novel recycling antibody, is a potential therapy for complement-mediated diseases. Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 24;7(1):1080.

  2. Antibody engineering to generate SKY59, a long-acting anti-C5 recycling antibody. PLoS One. 2018 Dec 28;13(12):e0209509.

Antibody therapeutic against complement C5 engineered to have a long-acting function by CPR’s proprietary technology called recycling antibody. This molecule is currently being tested in clinical study for the treatment of complement-mediated disease.

In my free time, I enjoy…

Playing basketball with my son and cooking for my family.

A book I will recommend everybody to read is…

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

I enjoy my job because…

I enjoy my job because, despite the challenges that we face in creating the antibody drugs, these drugs can save lives or improve the quality of life of the patients and their families. My job is truly enriching and fulfilling as it allows me to create something that can impact the lives of millions of patients.

Dr Tomoyuki Igawa is the CEO and Research Head at Chugai Pharmabody Research

Click here for the complete issue.

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