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Top>People>Developed the magic bullet for Alzheimer's disease after overcoming many difficulties


Hachiro Sugimoto

Hachiro Sugimoto [Profile]

Developed the magic bullet for Alzheimer's disease after overcoming many difficulties

Hachiro Sugimoto
Guest Professor, Cutting-edge Research Center for Medicine Development, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University (He graduated from Faculty of Science and Engineering in 1969)

Grown while seeing his mother suffering from repeated travails

Donepezil hydrochloride (product name: Aricept) inhibits the progression of Alzheimer-type dementia. This is an epoch-making medicine that has been approved as the "magic bullet for Alzheimer's disease" in over 90 countries around the world. It was developed by the pharmaceutical scientist Hachiro Sugimoto (graduated from Faculty of Science and Engineering in 1969). He has overcome many adverse circumstances, and paved the way by himself. In any circumstance, He hoped to "be filial to his mother."

Mr. Sugimoto was born as the eighth child among 9 children in a downtown of Tokyo in 1943. His mother worked at a factory in the daytime and moonlighted at home every day as the breadwinner. Even so, his family sometimes got pinched for money, and had no choice but to borrow money. "She did anything she could do, including the peddling of basket clams, but I could not understand why she had to suffer."

For Mr. Sugimoto, who saw his older brothers and sisters going to evening high school while working, the advance to college was just a dream. Abandoning his dream of "becoming a poet or a novelist," he entered a prefectural high school of chemical engineering and then joined the pharmaceutical maker Eisai Co., Ltd.
"At that time, the number of employees of Eisai was several hundred. Its scale was not so large in the business field. I did not graduate from college, and so if I had entered a large company, I would not have been spotlighted among highly-educated employees. To avoid it, I chose Eisai, where I would be able to make it."

Succeeded in developing a new medicine by utilizing the knowledge learned in college

Mr. Sugimoto was faced with the disadvantage of not having a university degree. He was employed as researcher, and assigned to a new drug development team immediately. But, most of his tasks were the assistance for college-educated researchers. His salary was significantly lower than those for college-educated researchers. Mr. Sugimoto felt the necessity to acquire a broad range of technical knowledge, and chose the path of learning at the secondary course of university, about 6 months from the entry to the company. However, he said, "It was hard to study for the college entrance examination after working hours, and so I failed to pass the exam two times, and then finally passed it."

Then, Mr. Sugimoto entered the secondary course of Applied Chemistry Section, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University. He engaged in the development of new medicines in the daytime, and studied chemistry in the nighttime, repeating theoretical and practical activities every day. Consequently, "I could approach chemistry from various aspects, ranging from organic chemistry to chemical engineering, and my knowledge was deepened without doubt."

Just after graduation, he produced a great achievement, proving his efforts. At the age of 26, he was appointed as the "chief" for developing the blood pressure-lowering drug bunazosin hydrochloride (product name: Detantol), and succeeded in producing it.
"In the development of new drugs, we try to produce new medicinal substances by combining existing substances. A broad range of knowledge of chemistry is required. Detantol was originally developed by Eisai, and its sale was approved outside Japan for the first time. I was able to develop such a memorable new medicine, thanks to the education at Chuo University," he said.

Started the development of a medicine for dementia, after seeing his mother suffering from disease

Just after the success of Detantol, an unexpected tragedy happened to Mr. Sugimoto. His mother, who was his model for living, suffered from cerebrovascular dementia.
"When I went to see her in a hospital, I was asked 'Who are you?' It was a very shocking event. Then, I decided to develop a new medicine for dementia."

However, his mother passed away during the new medicine development. At the final stage of the development, side effects were discovered, and it aborted.
"I could not save my mother, and so I felt chagrined. But, as I started researching dementia, I wanted to challenge the development of a drug for Alzheimer disease, which plagues many people. Consequently, Aricept was developed."

The success rate of new drug development is said to be 0.2%. In this severe field, Mr. Sugimoto was mentally supported by kendo, which he started in high school. "Master Yoshihiko Jifuku of the Kendo Club of Eisai was very strict. Compared with the kendo practice, the difficulty in creating medicines seemed nothing."

In 2003, Mr. Sugimoto resigned from Eisai, and became guest professor of Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University. At present, he served as guest professor for several colleges, including Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University. On the other hand, he established a venture for creating medicines. He is now engaged in the development of a basic remedy medicine for Alzheimer disease. If it is successfully developed, the patients suffering from Aricept-resistant disease will be saved. His challenge for dream medicines will continue.

(Offered by: Chuo University Gakuin Jihou, Issue 464)

Hachiro Sugimoto
Graduated from prefectural high school of chemical engineering in Tokyo in March 1961, and entered Eisai Co., Ltd. Attended Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University, while working for Eisai Co., Ltd. Graduated from Applied Chemistry Section, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University in March 1969. Received the Award of Science from Eisai in October 1993, the Award of Engineering from the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan in March 1998, the Special Galien Prize in the UK in April 1998, the Chemistry-Bio Tsukuba Award in May 1998, and the Imperial Award for Invention in June 2002. Earned a doctoral degree in pharmacology at Hiroshima University in July 2002. After retiring from Eisai Co., Ltd. in March 2003, became guest professor of Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University. Received an honorary doctorate from Chuo University in 2005. Since then, has served as part-time lecturer of Chuo University.