Then and Now - Masahiro Oda
Then and Now - Masahiro Oda
June 14, 2022
My journey in the biopharmaceutical industry started with Pall Corporation almost 30 years ago as an account manager in Sales. Then, a major pharmaceutical company had their largest aseptic manufacturing process facility in Japan, where their blockbuster prostate cancer drug was being produced and we were the suppliers. When I joined Pall, my first impression was that the ‘solution provider’ concept was very strong. My recollection of that time was that the customer was one of the first biopharmaceutical companies in Japan to accept FDA inspections for product validation. Then, the concept of filter validation did not exist in Japan, and close communication with Pall US headquarters was required in order to respond to customer questions. Although it is hard to imagine nowadays, communication was still done via telephone and fax. There was no internet, no email, and the Japanese office worked many late nights communicating with Europe and the USA.
Over the years, there have been big leaps in the biotechnology industry, growing from conventional plasma and vaccines to today’s biotechnology-derived modalities. Pall’s product portfolio has rapidly evolved to keep pace and most of the technology has changed from the old to the new. With time I realized that the Japanese biotechnology industry was fairly behind compared to the US and Europe, and I quickly understood that I had to expand my knowledge. This included many aspects of the industry, from drug development to market, and not just about the filtration solutions that Pall offered when I started. On a personal level, as I moved to a marketing role, I kept up with the current trends and increased my knowledge, not just on the technology, but also the regulatory requirements and their changes. I made understanding the technology and communicating the advancements elsewhere part of my role.
The continuous acquisition of knowledge is a good quality to have, but my ability to communicate that with people in the industry is what gave me confidence. I was able to talk to over 400 people at a scientific conference and to individual customers to understand their requirements. My communication skills helped me network, not only within Japan, but also with the US and Europe. In 2001, I had the chance to visit the UK for a few months on a marketing exchange program. It gave me the opportunity to explore the corporate vision, what matters to the customer, and to bond with my mentor, Ken Frank, the former head of Pall Biopharmaceuticals. He guided me with inputs on my career, on how to think strategically and that there are many different mindsets. Interactions such as these helped to understand the technology and identify the industry trends in US and Europe.
My communication skills are my biggest treasure, and it is this that has set me on my career path.
Japan and its people have an innate ability and training to deal with challenges, and yet are known for their risk-averse mindset. This holds true even when it comes to the introduction of a new drug. There is good collaboration between the regulatory bodies, the customer, and the suppliers, but we need to hasten the process of introducing new therapeutics. After Covid, however, we can see an effort to increase resources, greater openness to innovation, and the desire for new technologies and data sharing using digital capabilities. Japan might now have to get set to accept the ‘risk and benefits’ approach. My motivation here is to accelerate work in innovative technologies to help younger children via work on difficult diseases. We at Pall have the ability to relate the technical know-how to both the customers and the regulatory bodies and have the capability to help increase the speed to market of these life-changing therapies. My hope is for an ‘open innovation’ toward the availability of therapeutics in the future.
Working towards the future, I hope that the industry leaders accept innovation faster and have breakthrough thoughts on how to reach out and keep an open mind on investment. Furthermore, the leadership needs to continue to guide and communicate with the younger generations to develop a vision for people’s health and safety, and give them the opportunity to be innovative and contribute effortlessly to the industry’s needs.
To find out more about Masahiro Oda or any of our Biotech People please read our biographies page.
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