The history of the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences goes back to 1873, when the First University District Medical School, precursor of the University of Tokyo Faculty of Medicine, established a five-year pharmaceutics program (two years of preparatory study followed by three years of pharmaceutical coursework). The program continued to operate under the aegis of the Faculty of Medicine until 1958, when an independent Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences was established. At that time, it comprised just eight laboratories. Today we have twenty laboratories in our core program alone. Because I was born the same year the independent faculty opened, I tend to view its development in relation to my own milestones.
Research and education at the graduate school span the entire spectrum of pharmaceutical sciences, from pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmaceutical biology, and pharmaceutical physics to medical pharmaceutics, social pharmacy, and drug discovery. Generally speaking, though, our program is distinguished by its emphasis on basic life science research. Such research lays the foundation for the development of new drugs through the discovery of new molecular functions and life phenomena and the development of new reaction, synthesis, and analytical technologies.
Creating new drugs involves marshaling information and insights from multiple fields, and for this, interdisciplinary research is essential. This is why our staff includes not just specialists in pharmaceutics per se but also experts in various associated fields. Of the professors who head our main laboratories, 12 have degrees in pharmaceutics, 4 in natural science or engineering, and 2 in medicine or dentistry (as of April 2020). While leveraging their own individual assets to the full, they work together as a unified team to fulfill the School’s educational and research mission.
There has been a tendency of late to belittle basic research as inferior to “research that is useful to society.” But there are still undiscovered natural phenomena and avenues of research that lie beyond our imagination. Time and again, pure scientific curiosity has opened up new and fruitful fields of study. Basic research into the CRISPR-Cas9 system, a kind of immune mechanism by which bacteria eliminate viruses, paved the way for the development of CRISPR gene editing, an immensely useful technology. Our students and faculty do outstanding research by investigating the basic life sciences as their curiosity impels them, and they have fun in the process. I believe that all top-caliber basic life science research is ultimately useful.
Along with such basic research, the graduate school is channeling serious resources into the training of pharmacists to meet society’s need for professionals to support the proper use of pharmaceuticals, mindful of recent trends in advanced medical care and the separation of prescribing and dispensing. As a result, our program continues to rank first in the nation in the percentage of new graduates who pass the national licensing examination for pharmacists. On the other hand, only about 10% of those completing the six-year training program go on to the four-year doctoral program in pharmacy—far short of the 40% who advance from the master’s course in pharmaceutical sciences to the doctoral program in that department (three years). Our challenge now is to boost enrollment in the doctoral program in pharmacy and create a fertile environment for the training of pharmacists with the advanced expertise and research skills to lead the profession.
At the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, we are committed to improving the health and welfare of humankind through outstanding achievements in basic life science research and the education of top-flight life science researchers and leading pharmacists. We are counting on your support for that mission going forward.
Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences
The University of Tokyo