This story is a reprint from Kyowa Kirin Annual Report 2021. Click here to read more on Annual Report 2021.
Guided by the key phrase - “Provide “Only-one value” to Patients. This is our Dream,” Kyowa Kirin’s R&D Division continues to take on a wide range of challenges with the aim of bringing smiles to people battling with medical conditions. We are harnessing the power of our diverse team of researchers with a passion for innovation to create unique, life-changing value.
The R&D Division is also working to foster “Our R&D Spirits” - our vision for what each person in the global R&D organization should be and wants to be, based on the Core Values of the Kyowa Kirin Group. By promoting the vision, we aim to motivate employees to take on new challenges while respecting independent thought and actions.
A new R&D organization
- Bringing together technology, disease research and open innovation -
In April 2021, we opened a new Research Unit to combine previously fragmented research teams. The aim is to promote more dynamic, closer cooperation between technology research, disease research and open innovation. This integrated approach is allowing us to pursue synergies and allocate resources more appropriately within the unit, while also enabling comprehensive management of all research activities. The unit is working with our research base in San Diego in the US to foster much deeper collaboration, such as actively dispatching researchers from Japan, in order to realize global network-based drug discovery activities. We also continue to work closely with the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, also based in San Diego, as part of broader efforts to expand the product pipeline at the research stage.
The unit will continue to maintain Kyowa Kirin’s existing strengths in disease intelligence and its internal and external networks, while also advancing what we call technology-driven drug discovery through open innovation and collaboration with multiple external domestic and overseas R&D facilities, as well as our own R&D sites in Japan and the US, to establish new modality technologies and build a unique pipeline by harnessing those technologies.
Working to creating new value
- Groundbreaking drug discovery technologies that harness advances in science -
Kyowa Kirin is driving technology-driven drug discovery by pursuing its own unique technologies and combining them with the latest advances in science and new technologies born from open innovation.
In next-generation antibody treatments, we are using proprietary bispecific antibodies to create new antibody drugs, aiming to create first-in-class treatments that bring together technology and biology. In 2021, a number of bispecific antibodies in our pipeline moved smoothly into the preclinical stage and we made good progress with several late-discovery pipeline themes. Also, leveraging our strengths in proprietary antibody research, we continue to work on the development of advanced antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). In August 2021, we concluded a licensing agreement with Synaffix B.V. to use its cutting-edge proprietary ADC discovery technology platform, allowing us to accelerate the targeted development of ADCs for specific conditions. While our ADC pipeline is currently in the preclinical stage, we are working to strengthen the Group’s R&D pipeline by creating multiple groundbreaking therapeutic candidates, including in the late-discovery phase.
In recent years, the nucleic acid drug field has seen tremendous advances with the launch of new drugs based on antisense oligonucleotides(ASO) or small interfering RNA (siRNA), and the commercialization of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines to prevent COVID-19. Utilizing chemical synthesis technologies backed by our track record in nucleic acid research, we are developing proprietary protein expression transport technology. Our aim is to derive new value from the unique characteristics of nucleic acid drugs by using the technology to sustain levels of protein expression to treat and prevent various conditions.
In small molecule drugs, we are building a more dynamic and competitive drug discovery technology platform by effectively combining our novel drug discovery technologies with the extensive technologies and expertise of Axcelead Drug Discovery Partners Inc. in small molecule drug discovery. We aim to overcome the barriers of existing small molecule drugs to access previously unreachable drug discovery targets. In addition, xFOREST Therapeutics Co., Ltd. joined Kyowa Kirin and Axcelead in 2021 to work on drug discovery research targeting RNA structures. xFOREST is providing its proprietary FOREST technologies, a suite of large-scale parallel analysis platforms, to promote novel small-molecule drug discovery research for RNA structures.
Meanwhile, in the field of AI drug discovery, we are using AI to accelerate the cycle of discovery from hypothesis proposal to concept verification.
Working with InveniAI LLC, our AI technology partner since 2018, we continue to work on identifying novel targets for our next-generation antibody technology and explore new disease applications. We also expanded our longstanding relationship with InveniAI in December 2021 with a new joint research agreement to use its AI technologies in drug discovery across multiple therapeutic areas. By combining InveniAI’s strengths in the digital field with our technologies and by deepening ties between our respective research teams, we aim to create a new generation of innovative drug candidates.
Tackling unique research themes unhindered by existing thinking
The R&D Division is working to generate patient-centric life-changing value with clear competitive advantages by building mechanisms to create a research pipeline in therapeutic areas where there are no effective treatments, backed by groundbreaking core technologies and multiple modalities. As part of efforts to drive advances in technology by combining modalities and to generate value that goes beyond pharmaceuticals, we have also launched a new scheme to seek research theme ideas from inside the Company. The aim is to identify innovative Kyowa Kirin-inspired research themes focused on life-changing value, unhindered by existing thinking and approaches.
Cultivating personnel who embody “Our R&D Spirits”
We have formulated Personnel Management Policy in R&D, a shared policy for the R&D Division to realize the objectives of “Our R&D Spirits.” The policy clearly defines the roles every employee needs to fulfill in the R&D Division for all job-types and teams, whether research, engineering or development. We have also established an awards system to encourage actions and share approaches that embody “Our R&D Spirits.” The five awards, which all bear the “Our R&D Spirits” motto, are “Be the Best in Science Award,” “Passion for Innovation Award,” “Challenge Award,” “Teamwork Award,” and the “Grand Prize.” We will add a new award from 2022, “Our R&D Spirits Special Award,” to recognize employees who take on bold challenges without fear of failure. The aim is to foster an organizational culture that is even more conducive to tackling new challenges.
Kyowa Kirin will continue to boldly create life-changing “Only-one value” without fear of failure to bring smiles to people battling medical conditions. Building on the success of our global strategic products, as well as next-generation strategic products in our pipeline, we will step up R&D efforts to rapidly deliver new life-changing value to as many patients as possible worldwide.