Columns & Interviews


Small Biotech with a Big Vision

Carna Biosciences, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical start-up company having its roots in the pharmaceutical division of Kanebo, Ltd. In 1999, N.V. Organon, which was a leading pharmaceutical company in Netherland at that time, acquired the ethical drug division (ca. 650 people) of Kanebo including the research institute. Unfortunately, it was decided to close down the Japanese research site based on the restructuring plans of Organon in 2003. Dr. Kohichiro Yoshino, the research site head in Japan at the time, and his colleagues decided to found Carna Biosciences, Inc. as the spin-out company (now Dr. Yoshino is the president and CEO of Carna) not to fire anyone. Since then, we have been expanding our business by leveraging our expertise in kinase which was accumulated during Organon, and finally listed our stock in 2008. After raising capital, Carna has started own drug discovery in 2010 to challenge ourselves to identify and develop innovative small molecule drugs with strong potential as novel therapeutic interventions.

At first, we had only two chemists in drug discovery, but we were gradually expanding our drug discovery team, and now we have about 30 researchers who are engaging in medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, target validation, and DMPK studies. We are aiming to become the real drug discovery company with full functions; from target identification, hit generation, lead optimization, to clinical trials. Namely our future company image is an innovative company that can invent a drug from scratch and continuously deliver innovative therapies for patients to treat serious unmet medical needs.

We could successfully signed partnerships with leading pharmaceutical companies including, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and Sierra Oncology within a few years from the establishment of drug discovery group, strongly suggesting we are getting close to realizing our vision. Next step is to conduct clinical trials by ourselves, and we are establishing global clinical development capabilities to initiate clinical trials of our pipeline. We are hoping that compounds discovered by us will be approved as new drugs in near future, that address life threatening unmet medical needs and can save lives and improve health.

As described above, the drug discovery company exactly should be called as a visionary company, and everyone is working diligently to achieve our mission and vision: “to discover and develop significant medical values that will provide therapeutic solutions for improving human health”.

October 2019

Masaaki Sawa, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer

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