Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No.5, September 1999

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Chemistry International
Vol. 21, No. 5
September 1999

Medicinal Chemistry Graduate School Curriculum and Its Contribution to the Pharmaceutical Industry in Japan

Dr. Thomas J. Perun (, Titular Member and Secretary of the IUPAC Chemistry and Human Health Division and its Medicinal Chemistry Section Committee (VII.M), has helped make it possible for us to reprint with permission the following article, which was originally published in MedChem News (Japan), No. 4, November 1998, pp. 21-28. The survey it reports represents the efforts of the Medicinal Chemistry Section's Working Party on Medicinal Chemistry Curriculum to examine the relationship between academia and industry in Europe, Japan, and the United States. We thank the Working Party Chairman, Professor C. R. Ganellin (, and Dr. Toshihiko Kobayashi ( for compiling the results of this important survey and for preparing the original article.

Survey Outcome and Analysis


While the relationship between academia and industry is frequently examined from the perspective of research and technical collaborations, it is also important to view it in terms of supply of human resources by academia to meet the demands of industry.

In 1996, the IUPAC Medicinal Chemistry Section initiated, under the leadership of Professor C. R. Ganellin of London University, a survey of the education curriculum as well as the contributions and activities of graduate students in medicinal chemistry. Involved in the survey were participants from Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.*

Based on Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (JPMA) 1997 data (Figure 1), Japan accounts for 21% of the worldwide pharmaceutical market. Considering the importance of the Japanese market, the IUPAC survey was extended early in 1997 to determine how well pharmaceutical-related academia in Japan contributed to the pharmaceutical industry's current success.

While 30 professors and/or deans kindly responded to the survey despite their busy schedules, the global questionnaire caused inconveniences and difficulties among the responders because the questions were in English, did not reflect the local university system, and were not always self-explanatory.


Obviously, the Japanese university/college curriculum is different from that in the United States and Europe. About 120 years ago, the pharmaceutical sciences in Japan started using organic chemistry in line with German chemistry. This initial process was further accelerated at the advent of World War I (1914), which halted export of pharmaceuticals from Europe to Japan and, consequently, fostered local firms to manufacture pharmaceuticals.

As post-World War II technological developments were introduced, pharmaceutical sciences in Japan comprehensively developed and diversified through collaboration with biology. For example, in 1976 the government reformed Patent Law by adopting the "substance" and "use" patent system in addition to the "manufacturing" patent for pharmaceuticals. This reform triggered new challenges for the Japanese pharmaceutical industry, which was plunged into worldwide competition for drug discoveries. As a result, pharmaceutical sciences were necessarily diversified into biology through etiological approaches.

A prototype of the curriculum and organization of the research laboratories at the graduate school of pharmaceutical sciences for the university with the longest history is presented in Table 1.

There are three types of universities/colleges in the pharmaceutical sciences in Japan. To understand and interpret the survey outcomes properly, a brief explanation is useful.

Type 1
Seven Imperial Universities were established before the end of World War II. Six of the seven have a graduate school and undergraduate faculty of pharmaceutical sciences. These institutions are primarily research oriented. Academic staff are registered at the graduate school and also serve as undergraduate faculty.

Type 2
Of the more than 100 National and Public Universities established after World War II, 11 have a faculty of pharmaceutical sciences. These universities also include a research-oriented graduate school. Academic staff, however, are registered as faculty of pharmaceutical sciences and simultaneously direct research at the graduate school of the same university.

Type 3
There are hundreds of private universities and/or colleges in Japan, and 29 have a faculty of pharmaceutical sciences. These institutions are principally education oriented (fostering qualified pharmacists at hospitals and pharmacies) but maintain a research orientation through the graduate school. All academic staff are registered as faculty.

Several definitions of medicinal chemistry can be found in the literature, but they vary widely. In fact, quite different interpretations exist for each definition. For this survey, we proposed a rather flexible definition: medicinal chemistry is chemistry with medicinal objectives and goals. This definition encompasses chemistries relevant to and/or involved in the process of medicinal discovery, development, or commercialization, including organic/synthetic chemistry; biochemistry/pharmacology; pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics; formulation; drug design; computational chemistry; combinatorial chemistry, etc. In other words, medicinal chemistry would be a technical expertise endorsed by deep knowledge and technology specified in organic/synthetic chemistry, biochemistry/pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, formulation, computational chemistry, combinatorial chemistry, etc.

Survey Outcome and Analysis


The survey results should be very helpful and useful for overseas medicinal chemists in understanding medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences in terms of the relationship between academia and industry in Japan. However, an additional survey with more systematic and customized questionnaires is recommended in Japan. It is hoped that this issue will be discussed at a meeting of all deans of graduate schools and faculties of pharmaceutical sciences in Japan.


We are highly grateful to all professors and/or deans who kindly responded to our rather time-consuming questionnaires. Also, many thanks are due to Prof. K. Koga (Tokyo), Prof. Y. Sugiura (Kyoto), Prof. T. Shioiri (Nagoya), and Prof. T. Kunieda (Kumamoto) for their kind discussion in analyzing and commenting on the survey results.

*A separate survey for the United States was conducted by C. R. Ganellin, L. A. Mitscher, and J. G. Topliss (Med. Res. Rev. 1998, 18, 121_137).




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