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Tanabe Sets New Course For La Jolla Laboratories

From San Diego Union-Tribune (CA) (January 22, 2010)

Jan. 22--The Japanese drug company Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma is shutting a La Jolla research facility that dates to the early 1990s and plans to start clean later this year with a new research focus.

About 35 people will lose their jobs when the company shuts Tanabe Research Labs U.S.A., according to an attorney for the company, David R. Snyder of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

Snyder said the company decided to close the La Jolla facility’s programs in small-molecule drugs for metabolic and inflammatory conditions because they duplicate efforts elsewhere in the company.

Instead, he said, Tanabe will seek to build capabilities in La Jolla in the kinds of "biologic drugs" that biotechnology companies have developed for cancer and other conditions.

He said the plan is to shut down the existing programs during the first quarter and then launch a search for new leadership to fit the institute’s new direction.

"There is a hope that the new Tanabe will be up and running this year," Snyder said.

The La Jolla programs became redundant as a result of the 2007 merger that created Mitsubishi Tanabe, combining the predecessor companies Tanabe Seiyaku and Mitsubishi Pharma.

The history of Tanabe Seiyaku, based in Osaka, dates back more than 300 years.

The new biologics program will be unique within Mitsubishi Tanabe, and the company decided it would be a good fit as it considered the best use of its La Jolla facilities and the resources available in the area.

"We believe there is a great deal of relevant scientific know-how available in the San Diego region and many opportunities to collaborate with others pursuing successes in similar areas of research," Tanabe Research Laboratories board member Takeshi Matsumoto said in a statement.

Tanabe picked up the San Diego lab in 1990 from Immunetech Pharmaceuticals, a local company with an anti-allergy drug that failed to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Tanabe took over the lab and what at the time was an 18-person research staff, while Immunetech kept its drug distribution arm Dura Pharmaceuticals, which was eventually taken over in 2000 by the Irish drug company elan for $1.8 billion.

More recently, the local company MediciNova was founded in 2000 as a subsidiary of Tanabe Seiyaku. A former chief executive of the Tanabe Research Laboratories was a co-founder of the company, which went public in 2005.

Thomas Kupper: (619) 293-1037

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Posted: January 2010