Seikagaku engages in research and development of innovative drugs that contribute to health and fulfill the lives of people around the world.
Message from the Head of the Research & Development Division
As an R&D-oriented pharmaceutical company, Seikagaku Corporation regards as its social mission the creation of original and innovative pharmaceuticals and medical devices based on research in glycoscience, our area of specialization, which we then continuously provide all patients with.
We utilize the glycoscience-related technology and expertise that we have accumulated over many years to promote the development of new drugs, but are also devoting efforts to form a “professional organization for scientists” that gives proper thought to science and generates outcomes.
We will continue to create new drug candidates that we hope can expand globally as well as continuously and efficiently supply with pharmaceuticals and medical devices that meet unmet medical needs.
In order to rapidly and continuously create new products, Seikagaku engages in efficient R&D activities by focusing on target compounds and prioritizing target diseases. The focus of our drug discovery is glycosaminoglycan (GAG), which is one of the structural components known as glycoconjugates.
In research spanning nearly 70 years, we have accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise related to GAG drug discovery research and GAG production and formulation technologies. Today, we apply hyaluronic acid or unmodified GAG in pharmaceuticals and also engage in research and development of modified GAG produced using a cross-linking technology as well as enzymes and other substances that act on GAG. Given the properties of GAG, we focus mainly on orthopedic disorders and ophthalmic diseases as high-priority areas for now.
Seikagaku and glycoscience
Seikagaku’s Management Creed states: “Under the principle of respect for learning, we contribute to human well-being by creating and supplying the world with safe and useful pharmaceutical products based on glycoscience.” In keeping with this creed, we have made glycoscience the core foundation of our business and explicitly adopted a stance of respect for learning. Seikagaku’s origin is closely bound up with this creed.
In 1950, Seikagaku became the first company in the world to successfully produce chondroitin sulfate, which is a sort of GAG, on a commercial scale. This breakthrough laid the foundation for our current business, which is centered on glycoscience. The manufacture of chondroitin sulfate marked the starting point for expansion of our business to bulk products, as well as reagents and diagnostics, and this has led to the strengthening of our ties to glycoscience-related academia and research institutes.
Through this close relationship with academia, we acquired the idea of applying hyaluronic acid in pharmaceuticals. R&D activities spanning many years culminated in 1987 with the successful development and launch of ARTZ, the world’s first joint function improving agent whose main ingredient is hyaluronic acid. The development of HERNICORE, a treatment for lumbar disc herniation that contains condoliase, an enzyme that degrades GAG, also originated from collaboration with academia.
Seikagaku will continue to make glycoscience the central focus of R&D activities and, on the basis of research results in the field of glycoscience achieved in collaboration with universities and research institutes, strive to create pharmaceuticals and medical devices and deliver them to patients around the world.
The difficulty of applying glycoconjugates to pharmaceuticals
GAG is formed when amino sugars (sugars that include nitrogen atoms) and uronic acids (a class of sugar acids) or galactose are linked together to form chain-like structures (sugar chains). GAGs exist in living organisms as structural components of glycoconjugates. Sugar chains are known in the life sciences as the third biological chains, along with nucleic acids and proteins. They have complex chemical structures and pose characteristic difficulties in research in areas such as structural analysis, automatic synthesis, and large-scale synthesis.
Some years ago, an industry-government-academia research project focused on glycoscience was formed and its activities advanced the structural analysis and synthesizing technologies of GAG. In addition, the genes of sugar-chain synthesizing enzymes and degrading enzymes have been comprehensively identified, and our understanding of the functions of sugar chains in living organisms is advancing. This progress in glycoscience technologies is closely linked with Seikagaku’s drug discovery research.
Direction of R&D and future drug discovery approach
Seikagaku possesses a GAG compound library, GAG-related enzymes, and wide-ranging technologies for manipulating these substances. We actively utilize these assets, accumulated in the course of research spanning many years, in drug discovery activities. We have also developed a global network of collaborating glycoscience researchers and engage in multiple joint research projects with universities and research institutes.
Specifically, we have given orthopedic disorders and ophthalmic diseases high-priority for research and development. Recently, we have also begun development of adhesion barriers used in surgery as a new R&D area. At the same time, we are considering ways of enhancing the product value (expansion of indications, additional formulations, and improvements in dosage and administration) of products already on the market and themes currently in the development stage.
Until now, Seikagaku has followed a drug discovery approach of increasing the bioactivity of GAG, mainly through GAG modification and processing, and we are currently applying GAG to drug delivery systems (DDSs). Furthermore, going forward, we will also adopt an approach focused on the biological functions of sugar chains to open up new possibilities in drug discovery.
In our DDS, we are researching technologies that utilize the characteristics of modified GAG to freely control drug dose and the location and timing of release. We will pursue drug discovery and development capable of responding to a wide range of unmet medical needs by combining Seikagaku’s DDS technologies with drugs and technologies that other companies possessed, not only low-molecular compounds, but also proteins and middle molecules such as peptides and nucleic acids.
Licensing Activities (Rapid Expansion of Product Pipeline)
While we strive to speed-up in-house development, we are also keen to introduce development themes from outside research institutes, bioventure companies and pharmaceutical companies. In addition to orthopedic disorders, we target diseases and therapies having high unmet medical needs. We periodically review in-licensing candidates, always seeking balance with the progress of other development themes. We are also working to strengthen our research network in Japan and overseas, as well as to streamline the R&D organizational structure.
Investment in R&D
Seikagaku, while its scale is small compared with major pharmaceutical companies, invests much of its management resources in new drug development by entrusting sales of its products to other companies. This is apparent in the basic policy that 25 to 30% of net sales is invested in R&D expenses each year and one third of all employees is engaged in R&D (about 45% on a non-consolidated basis). Seikagaku continues to emphasize R&D activities as a R&D-oriented pharmaceutical company.