If you're looking for OHSU and Vertex alumna Asako Itakura, Ph.D. '13, a graduate of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, you won't find her on the Marquam Hill Campus. She has moved to Japan, having recently accepted a position working for the pharmaceutical company Novartis as a medical science liaison in the field of cardiovascular medicine.
Dr. Itakura is excited about this next phase of her life, heading to a career in industry, which is different from the traditional post doc move and a harbinger of the future as scientists no longer automatically enter academia.
So what are Dr. Itakura's thoughts on this move from academia to the public sector?
"It was not until recent years that the concept of translational medicine received attention in Asia," she said, "and yet there are critical lag times in drug approval process as compared to in the U.S. or Europe." She believes that more active and collaborative research between pharmaceutical companies and academia will accelerate the evaluation of current situations and the development of new therapeutics. "I am excited to serve as a 'bridge' between those two important players in the drug R&D."
Like many students, Dr. Itakura's four years at OHSU were full of learning and discovery. Along with her thesis project, she said that there were many opportunities for collaboration, through which she could identify her roles and interest in different fields of study, such as cell biology, immunology, cardiovascular research and biomedical engineering.
"Among all, I feel very lucky to have had a wonderful advisor and lab members, as well as the thesis committee members, who always helped me and provided insightful inputs."
Dr. Itakura is also thankful for the financial support provided during her fourth year in school by the Vertex scholarship. "Thanks to its travel support, I was able to attend the international society of thrombosis and hemostasis (ISTH) meeting in Amsterdam last summer, where I gave an oral presentation and a poster presentation," she said. "Interactions with scientists from all over the world were just wonderful and their inputs to my projects definitely pushed my thesis research one step further."