Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani was recently interviewed on stage at the 2019 FORTUNE Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego, which hosted many of the biggest names in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. During a fireside chat, Dr. David B. Agus of the University of Southern California quizzed Mikitani about business, philanthropy and how he came to be one of the biggest drivers of research into photoimmunotherapy, a groundbreaking new cancer therapy.

For Mikitani, it’s a story that began in 2013, when he made a large investment into San Diego-based biotechnology startup Aspyrian Therapeutics—now known as Rakuten Medical—to help fund research into photoimmunotherapy.

This investment was a significant departure from his hitherto primarily IT-focused portfolio, but it was something highly personal that motivated Mikitani’s journey into the world of biotech.

Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani (left) spoke with Dr. David B. Agus of the University of Southern California at FORTUNE Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego, touching upon about the innovative cancer research being developed by Rakuten Medical. (Biotech)
Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani (left) spoke with Dr. David B. Agus of the University of Southern California at FORTUNE Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego about the innovative cancer research being developed by Rakuten Medical.

In 2012, Mikitani’s father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer—widely considered one of the most difficult cancers to treat. He set out on a mission to find a treatment that could save his father, conducting his own research and eventually connecting with National Institutes of Health (NIH) cancer researcher Dr. Hisataka Kobayashi.

Kobayashi and the team at Rakuten Medical are developing a new treatment called photoimmunotherapy. The innovative technique targets tumor cells and destroys them using non-thermal red light with minimal damage to the normal surrounding tissue.

Mikitani’s father passed away in 2013, but his mission continues: Rakuten Medical’s photoimmunotherapy treatment is now undergoing phase III clinical trials globally for locoregional, recurrent head and neck cancers, and the company is optimistic about the future.

See Mikitani’s entire talk from the 2019 FORTUNE Brainstorm Health conference below:

Video credit: Fortune Magazine

For more on Mikitani’s efforts to conquer cancer, visit here.