Tetsuro Fujita’s eureka moment with a Himalayan fungus in 1985 may mean part of a $5 billion payout for Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. a quarter-century later.
While the scientist drove over a bridge between Shikoku and Honshu on his way to take up a post researching traditional herbal remedies, Fujita realized that the fungus, used in a Chinese medicinal soup, must be suppressing the immune system of the insects on which it grew.
His research at Kyoto University not only helped yield Gilenya, a new treatment for multiple sclerosis — the debilitating condition afflicting more than 2 million people worldwide — but it also promised to bring Mitsubishi Tanabe its biggest money earner. Annual sales of the pill, the first for the autoimmune disease, may exceed $5 billion, UBS AG said.
"Little did I think that it would be a treatment for multiple sclerosis," Fujita, 80, said in an in interview Kyoto. "I was more interested in immune suppression for organ transplants. I knew nothing about the disease back then."
Novartis AG, based in Basel, Switzerland, began selling Gilenya in the U.S. in October. Projected sales of the medicine have it ranked as one of the 10 best-selling drugs worldwide, based on data from IMS Health Inc., a research company based in Norwalk, Conn.
Read the rest of the story: Himalayan fungus feeds Mitsubishi Tanabe windfall.