Eisai is restructuring its research teams in a bid to become more efficient and is also looking to emerging markets to drive growth, the Japanese drugmaker’s chief executive has told PharmaTimes World News.

Chief executive Haruo Naito, speaking at the opening of Eisai’s £100 million European headquarters in the UK last week, noted that the company is setting up 13 smaller units dealing with product development, six focusing on therapeutics and seven on technology. Each unit will consist of around 160 scientists, he noted, saying that the move has been prompted by observing the way things are done at Morphotek, the US biotechnology firm that specialises in oncology bought by Eisai for $325 million in 2007.

Morphotek created “a cohesive group of high productivity”, Mr Naito said, and Eisai wants to have an “intra-bioventure atmosphere” running through its product development. The company, as well as expanding its Aricept (donepezil) franchise for Alzheimer’s disease, has selected three other projects for priority development.

The first is E7389 (eribulin), which is derived from a marine sponge, and Eisai hopes to make a simultaneous submission in the USA, Europe and Japan by the end of the fiscal year ending March 2010 for breast cancer. The company is also planning filings for the investigational sepsis drug E5564 (eritoran) during the same time period and thirdly E2007 (perampanel) will be submitted in Europe and the USA during fiscal 2011 for neuropathic pain and two years later for epilepsy.

Increasing productivity in the development of new drugs is possible because of the size of Eisai, said Mr Naito. “If you are too large or too small, you cannot do this,” he told PharmaTimes World News, but the Tokyo-based group is medium-sized and the staff “can mingle and share the programme”. He is more interested in collaborations than any large acquisitions, and specifically in emerging markets – China, India and certain nations in Africa and Latin America.

Eisai is also interested in branded generics to cater specifically for the middle-income class of China and India, Mr Naito said, noting that this demographic has increased almost 50% in the last five years, and they prefer branded drugs. “They are not interested if the drugs are patented or off-patent. Brand is their preference”, he said adding that Eisai is also interested in growing an “information-driven generics”.

He concluded by saying that new proposals in the Japanese market which will protect prices on drugs during their patent lifetime will also be a great help to innovative firms like Eisai.