Rx+: Integrating Astellas’ innovative medical technology with cutting-edge technology in different fields.
Astellas, a pharmaceutical company, started a unique non-pharmaceutical business with the establishment of the Rx+ Business Accelerator division in April 2018. Astellas pursued the meaning of “VALUE for patients” in its VISION and decided to open the road to Rx+® business creation.
Before the Rx+ Business Accelerator division was established, Astellas had provided value to patients in prevention and treatment through its Rx business in the Patient Journey (overall medical care, including diagnosis, prevention, treatment and prognosis). The company recognized that starting a business that leverages the expertise and knowledge of Astellas cultivated through its Rx business, integrates innovative medical technology with cutting-edge technology in different fields, contributes to patients through Patient Journey by fulfilling needs that cannot be met with Rx, and also creates new revenue streams separate from the company’s core Rx products. This is how Astellas established the Rx+ Business Accelerator division.
Approximately five months before its establishment, at the end of 2017, Yuta Watanabe was asked by then Corporate Executive Vice President, Kenji Yasukawa, who was appointed later to the President and CEO in April 2018, to become the head of the Rx+ Business Accelerator division. Watanabe said he felt "Astellas had finally decided to take a serious step toward a new business besides Rx." Yasukawa handed Watanabe five books on medical reform and startup businesses. He told Watanabe, “Achievement depends on one's energy and courage. If you have any doubts or concerns, just let me know.” Watanabe read the five books during the New Year's holidays.
At the beginning of 2018, Watanabe told Yasukawa his decision. He said, "I would love to take you up on your offer to make a new business happen."
Creating new healthcare solutions by leveraging the company’s Rx expertise and knowledge.
Watanabe shared with us how he became the head of the Rx+ Business Accelerator division. “Everyone in our company knew that other businesses besides Rx were being considered. I accepted this initiative to provide new solutions to the changing medical environment. Rx only provides partial help to patients in their Patient Journey and is not the entirety of their healthcare solution. I wanted to contribute to society and help patients by using a different methodology, one that has never been used before. That is why I decided to take on this challenge and create new healthcare solutions.”
When Yasukawa offered Watanabe the position of the division head, Watanabe was just about to complete the annual and mid-term plan for the Rx development division he was leading and ready to put it into action. So, he felt as if he had left his heart behind. He said, “Yasukawa told me that the company already had some ideas about Rx+®. The next action would be to turn those ideas into a business. I realized then that the company was entering the development execution phase. And so, with anticipation that I would utilize my experience in the Rx development team, this time I was assigned to develop the Rx+® business.
Rx+® handles medical and digital devices. The types of products we handle are different from Rx, but in terms of development, I thought my own experience would be useful.”
Watanabe explained the Rx+® business further: “To promote our VISION to ‘turn innovative science into VALUE for patients,’ Astellas needed to expand its business areas in addition to the Rx business. By integrating innovative medical technology with cutting-edge technology in different fields, Astellas would be able to create value for patients. Astellas’ Rx+® business should create new products or services that generate revenue on their own.”
Astellas aims to realize the Rx+ Story®, a world where people can live physically and mentally healthy lives and be true to themselves, through healthcare solutions based on scientific evidence.
When he just started as a division head and was thinking about how to turn Rx+® into a new business, he organized workshops and gathered opinions from several members who were eager and passionate about their work. He said, “We first brainstormed with team members and translated our thoughts including ‘what we can do to add value to society’ and ‘what we want to realize in society even if some colleagues say it is not possible’ into written form since intrinsic motivation is important in the development of new businesses.”
Watanabe told us, “When we think about the future, we often use the ‘forecasting’ method, which predicts the future from knowledge and experience of the past and the present. Uncertainty, however, is unavoidable. It is important to think about ‘what we want to realize in society’ and ‘what we should do now to make it happen’ by refreshing our thoughts and being flexible. This is how Astellas' Rx+ Story® was developed. Astellas wants to see ‘a world where people can live mentally and physically healthy lives and be true to themselves through healthcare solutions based on scientific evidence’ through the Rx+® business.”
Focusing on our business areas and spheres to realize Rx+ Story®.
Watanabe said, “Astellas provides the following three values: (1) Prevent disease onset and slow progression by using personal data; (2) Expand options for people with limited access to current therapeutics; and (3) Support active living by enhancing physical and sensory function. The company has set six areas as its focus areas and are working diligently to create new businesses. Astellas refers to these business areas as ‘Spheres’.”
Watanabe said, “The six spheres have several connected programs that share the same goals. The people in charge of leading each program, known as Business Producers (BPs), are strongly motivated and thoroughly discuss the program with their partners. BPs need to be intrinsically motivated to lead the programs. They need to have energy and courage. Sometimes BPs need to approach companies that engage in different businesses, such as the gaming industry, and explain the company’s business to them to get their support. Astellas needs people who are good communicators, and who can be selected as reliable partners for new businesses and promote the company’s businesses.”
Astellas is working on Rx+® initiatives to realize the society depicted in Rx+ Story®.