Case study: TXA Utako Okamoto


Postpartum Haemorrhage (bleeding after giving birth) is the leading cause of maternal mortality, claiming the lives of over 100,000 women every year. Although predominately a problem facing the Third World, PPH remains a threat in many forms for new mothers everywhere.

With International Women’s Day being celebrated around the globe this week, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to highlight the life and work of an incredible (yet largely unknown) woman who created a drug that has the potential to save the lives of new mothers worldwide.

The WOMAN Trial was a global investigation into maternal health, and the first large scale trial to test the effectiveness of a drug called Tranexamic (TXA), which had been created to prevent the deaths of women suffering PPH after giving birth. While our client, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine wanted us to draw attention to the trial and drug through our campaign, it was equally important to their team that we share the unknown story of its creator, Ukato Okamoto.

As we searched through interviews, archive footage and the scant trail of readily-available information online, we were fascinated to discover not only the story of a scientist driven by a desire to save lives, but of a Japanese woman and mother, who overcame all obstacles to serve a greater purpose.

We wanted to discover new drugs to show our gratitude to humanity
— Utako Okamoto

At a time where Japan’s resources and morale were stretched thin following World War II and the immeasurable destruction caused by two nuclear bomb attacks, Utako’s motivations to pursue research perhaps best summarize her humility, determination and selflessness: ‘We wanted to discover new drugs to show our gratitude to humanity’. The reasons for her focus on blood research only further illustrated her character: ‘If there was not enough, we could simply use our own’.

This was but one of many examples of a female scientist who overcame all obstacles in her path to help create a safer future for new mother’s everywhere.

When Utako’s research laboratory was destroyed during the war, she built a new one inside her own home. When she could not find a childcare support network for female researchers like herself, who struggled to balance their work/life duties, she founded and ran her own, while continuing her work. In the (still) male-dominated world of scientific research, Utako’s story is one that we hope will inspire many more women to follow in her footsteps and overcome the greatest medical threats and challenges facing us today.

Utako was not motivated by the desire for fame, recognition or wealth, but by a love of people and humanity. At the age of 98, she passed away just before the trial’s successful results became known. With the WOMAN Trial confirming TXA as an effective response to preventing bleeding after birth, Utako’s noble contribution may continue to go unnoticed by many, but for the millions of women giving birth each year, it could be life-saving.

Take a look at Utako Okamoto’s Story…

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