Voice of a Researcher

Hear from our researchers about the type of research activities they participate in, and reasons why they work at the Computational Biology Research Center.

Takatsugu HIROKAWA Takatsugu HIROKAWA
Additional post, Biomolecule Analysis Team
Born in Okinawa, 1971
Completed Research Course at the Graduate School of Engineering, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
If you do good work wherever you go, it doesn't matter where you are doing it.
®° Please explain how you came to join the CBRC. When did you start and why did you join?

After finishing graduate school, I worked in a private company. My main duties involved technical support and benchmarking for molecular modeling software. Just as I was finishing my third year at the company, I heard that the CBRC was being established. I was interested in the CBRC, and the reason I joined was because former CBRC Director Akiyama invited me.

Dr. Akiyama said, "We do not only want people from academic fields, but also people with experience working in the real world in private companies," and this was particularly significant to me. It made me realize that they needed people in the field of drug design, a field I was participating in. When I first received the invitation, I had to think about it; but eventually I came to the conclusion that if you do good work wherever you go, it doesn't matter where you are doing it, and I decided to join. I realized that if I was able to achieve suitable results wherever I was located, that would be fine. Just because I was temporarily entering an academic research institution didn't mean I couldn't return to work in the private sector in the future, or vice versa. I had this in mind when I joined the CBRC.

I really feel the benefit of being able to tackle research on your ideas in the manner you see fit.
®° What kind of research themes do you tackle at the CBRC?

At present my theme is the protein modeling and computational drug desing. In all there are 19 team members, including collaborative researchers from corporations, who are proceeding with research on a daily basis.

Differences between working at a private company and the CBRC are defined by the lack of limitations. When you work at a private company, earnings and profits are always emphasized, so limits are often placed upon research themes and methods. At the CBRC, there really isn't any of that type of restriction (although, naturally, the CBRC has its own mission as a research center). You are able to tackle themes you really wish to research, and conduct research in a way you see fit...that is the biggest advantage of working at the CBRC. The CBRC also provides an environment specifically tailored to research. It is an environment that offers immense computer processing power and interaction with other researchers, and enables you to become really immersed in your research. These two features are probably the biggest benefits that working at the CBRC offers.

It is important not only to have theories, but to also possess a mind capable of applying theories to achieving outcomes
®° What personal qualities are vital in drug design research?

Firstly, I think it is important to not solely depend on theories. If you only emphasize theoretical concepts in the field of drug design, you cannot move forward. In addition to theoretical analysis using computers, it is also necessary to work together with people conducting a variety of experiments, and to actually create drugs. Accordingly, not only do you need theory, but you also need to possess a mind capable of applying knowledge you have already obtained in order to create tangible results. Collaboration is also needed; you need to be able to cooperate with others in order to create one thing.

It's also important to be aware of the on-site issues and processes involved with actually creating drugs, and to not simply know what happens at research locations. Research in this field requires an approach emphasizing appropriate awareness of the sorts of issues dealt with on-site.

We're looking for people who are mentally tough, and who are able to move on when things don't go their way.
®° What sort of people do you want to join the CBRC?

Firstly, I think people who possess a mind capable of what I mentioned before. If I was to propose one more quality, I'd say it would be mental toughness.

The field I'm involved in, drug design, is a field that researchers struggle with all over the globe. We discover and design the target drugs by computational screening of huge numbers of compounds. On top of this, we also conduct a variety of experiments and confirm things like their medicinal benefits. We repeat these processes all the time. Even if you have a "Hit!" moment, you still aren't soon able to ascertain whether the material you have found will have any effect as a drug. Many times, the verdict we receive from the investigative process is negative. When this happens, people who lose their patience, or get wound up in failure, find it really tough (sigh). This line of work requires people whose attitude to failure is to think, "Let's try the next one", and move on when things don't go their way.

We have an environment where you can carry out your research with pride.
®° Is the CBRC a place where people who possess these qualities are able to feel a sense of job satisfaction?

Of course. As I mentioned before, The CBRC is a place where you are able to immerse yourself in tackling a research theme of your choice. The CBRC offers the environment you need to advance with your research, enabling you to tackle your research theme thoroughly.

As I also mentioned before, numbers of people who conduct drug design utilizing computers in Japan are extremely small. Looking at it another way, it is an environment where, although the numbers involved are small, each researcher is tackling a variety of themes and research subjects. The CBRC provides proper support for these kinds of researchers.

The field of drug design is a field that still has a lot of scope for expansion. We would really like people with an interest in computing, medical science and medical drugs, and who possess a specialty, to come and join us. The CBRC provides an environment where you can carry out your research with pride.

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