Introduction to Companies in Osaka
PRA Health Sciences K.K
Interviews with foreign investors in Osaka 2019.10.16
QCould you tell us about PRA Health Sciences K.K.?
Before launching a new drug, pharmaceutical companies have to conduct clinical trials. PRA Health Sciences is a company supporting the conduct of such clinical trials. Not only in Japan, but also globally. With our global headquarters in the U.S., we have 16,000 or more employees around the world and provide the service of conducting clinical trials throughout the world. PRA Health Sciences has been doing businesses in 80 or more countries. To (newly) operate our business also in Japan, we opened our offices in Japan two years ago. The important purpose of PRA Japan is to bring out new drugs to Japan with very high medical standards, and to support clinical development in Asia as an important regional hub.
QCould you introduce yourself?
PRA Health Sciences is a contract research organization (CRO), a type of service provider. Our main responsibility is providing support for pharmaceutical companies for conducting clinical trials. The establishment of PRA Japan was started with an effort initiated by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited., a large Japanese pharmaceutical company, and PRA Health Sciences to construct a framework for effectively conducting a new form of clinical trials in Japan, the U.S., and Europe on the basis of the partnership.
In those days, belonging to Takeda as the site head of clinical development in Europe, I was working in London. The overseas partnership with Takeda was agreed on one year before its expansion in Japan. This new partnership was a very exciting and new effort that had never been tried in this industry. Furthermore, it was expected that unique business development would be feasible in the future, with the role required of CROs expanding in the form of a horizontal division of labor. Thus the new partnership was started with a form of a joint venture with Takeda in Japan, and I asked them to let me take the role of the head of the venture company. This is how I first became involved in PRA Health Sciences. We operated as the joint venture with Takeda for the next two years. After, In June 2019, the operation as a joint venture was completed, and we made a new start as a fully-owned subsidiary of PRA Health Sciences. In this way, I am currently in charge of the Japanese branch of PRA.
QWhy have you chosen Osaka as your first base in Japan?
The Japanese partner company (Takeda) of the original joint venture was based in Kansai, and this was certainly a great factor at first. Moreover, as suggested by why Takeda was based in Kansai, there are many pharmaceutical and medical universities in Osaka and Kyoto, Kansai. This means that many human resources related to health sciences and life sciences are available, enabling us to secure the necessary human resources relatively easily. I think that this is an advantage of being based in Kansai. The second factor is Kansai’s proximity to other Asian regions. Kansai International Airport gives us very convenient access to other areas in Asia. As a global company, we often work together with employees from other Asian countries, such as China and Korea. Thanks to the good access, such employees can take a one-day business trip to Japan. In that sense, I feel that the very close proximity to other Asian areas is an advantage. The third factor is that you can ensure the proximity between work and home, or work-life-balance, more easily than you can in Tokyo. I think that Tokyo is, of course, highly significant in Japan, but as a result of the extreme concentration, it has become difficult to commute and find housing near the center of Tokyo. As well, from the standpoint of companies like us, the rent is very high, and above all, the number of vacant offices is very small, placing many restrictions on us. Since PRA is a company globally operating the business, having our base in Osaka is a great advantage also because we can work in a new, more borderless manner, not only within Japanese cities, such as Osaka or Tokyo.
QWhat do you think about your achievements made over the two years during which you launched your business in Osaka and have further expanded it?
Our effort is very unique. This effort was started on the ground that we can effectively conduct a new form of clinical trials by having a strategic partnership between a pharmaceutical company and a CRO. Our effort seems to appear interesting to our clients, and many companies get interested in it. Although it has been only two years since we made full inroads into Japan, many clients have expressed interest in us. That is enabling us to expand our business scope.
QCould you tell us about your future business prospects?
What I am talking is linked to the original purpose of our establishment. In any business category, a horizontal division of labor is becoming the norm. In the past, a single pharmaceutical company was engaged in the entire process from discovery of a candidate substance of a new drug, conduct of clinical trials, application for drug approval, launch of the drug in the market, to distribution of the drug in the world. However, such an approach no longer works today. For example, in the automobile industry, Toyota Motor Corporation used to perform the entire process from the first phase of automobile development to the last phase, including management of sales and after-sales services. Today, it’s becoming difficult to make a strong showing in every phase by a single company. A horizontal division of labor is employed even in the design phase, with strategic alliances formed with partners that are strong in respective fields. Such partners include, of course, conventional components manufacturers, like DENSO Corporation. However, new players in the automobile industry, such as SONY Corporation as a sensor maker, Panasonic Corporation as a battery manufacturer, and other companies with advantages in terms of new technologies, are also emerging as partners with which to make even better products. I think that this trend is spreading not only in the automobile industry but also in other industries. The trend of horizontally dividing the labor is also becoming the norm in the field of drug development. In this environment, we’d like to take advantage of our unique feature of making inroads into the service industry with backing from a pharmaceutical company, thereby creating unique, new value. Actually, this is the expectation that I feel from a wide variety of clients while talking with them.
QWhat do you think about the support from the public sector that you received for your inroads into Osaka?
We’re truly grateful for the excellent support from the public sector, including subsidies, which were used for our relocation to this new office in Honmachi, where you’re shooting this video now. Moreover, when establishing our company, we held an opening ceremony, which was supported and attended by many officials from the public sector. In addition, as we’re doing now, we can receive PR support. Since we’re still new in the Japanese market, we’re filled with gratitude for such publicity support. Thank you very much.
QIf you expect any improvement from us for your business in Osaka, could you tell us about it?
I’m not in the position of talking big about expecting you to improve something. Still, considering the extreme concentration of the Japanese economy in Tokyo, cooperation in the scrum of Kansai as a single unit, rather than solo work of Osaka, might be the most efficient in terms of any rivalry against Tokyo. If cooperative efforts among Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe become more common in our field of health sciences and life sciences, we expect that we can do business more easily here.
QCould you give any message for foreign companies considering making inroads into Osaka?
Like us, more and more companies in the world are shortening their distance with the global market, and employing a borderless work style. With this background, Osaka has unique features. For example, Osaka has a solid infrastructure through which the area can serve as a hub center in Asia. In addition, there are many excellent talented people available in a wide variety of fields in Kansai. My own experience says that selecting Osaka and Kansai as the base in Asia is very beneficial. I strongly encourage other foreign companies to launch their business in Osaka. I’d like to contribute to making Kansai, ultimately Japan, even more exciting together with such companies.
|PRA Health Sciences K.K.|
|President & CEO||Dr. Atsushi Ogawa|
|Business||Clinical development related to pharmaceuticals, medical devices, regenerative medicine products, vaccines, and consignment business such as post marketing surveillance, post-marketing survey, and clinical research.|