DUBLIN, Ireland One of Japan¿s most experienced pharmaceutical industry executives has established a business strategy outfit in Dublin that aims to help Western biotechnology companies forge alliances with Japanese pharmaceutical firms.

Eugene Takagi, former CEO of Grelan Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Tokyo, which is now part of Japan¿s largest pharmaceutical company, Osaka-based Takeda Group, has teamed up with former consultant Richard Godley to form BioVision. They registered the company in June, and are already working with a number of client firms in the U.S. and Europe. They plan to establish offices in Japan and the U.S. early next year.

BioVision¿s founders emphasize that the company is not a consultancy.

¿We want to share the vision with the companies, the CEO and the top management,¿ said Takagi, who is BioVision¿s CEO.

Godley said, ¿We, as strategists, are the CEO¿s strategic planning department for Japan. He can effectively see us as an outsourced strategic management division for Japan,¿ which represents 20 percent of the world pharmaceuticals market. Yet most Western biotechnology companies are unable to devote 20 percent of their management time to the country, said Takagi. BioVision aims to fill that management gap. It plans to work on a relatively long-term basis about five years with up to 10 companies.

Japanese Market Opening Up

BioVision believes that Japanese pharmaceutical companies will rush to embrace Western biotech companies in an effort to retain their independence. Japan¿s pharmaceutical industry is characterized by an overabundance of small and medium-sized companies, whose long-term survival is under threat. Even Japan¿s biggest pharmaceutical company, Takeda, is ranked only 18th in terms of revenue-earners in the world. But the Japanese market is now opening up, due to the international movement for harmonization of drug development.

In the past, the indigenous pharmaceutical industry was protected from foreign competition by national regulations which refused to recognize foreign clinical data. Japanese companies were able to dominate their domestic market with a slate of ¿me-too¿ drugs, developed at low cost, but they neglected investment in basic research. As a result, the industry¿s pipeline is running dry, and there is little indigenous activity to counter this. ¿In Japan, we don¿t have biotechnology companies,¿ Takagi said. Godley added that clinical trials ¿have almost dried up, and that¿s a crisis.¿ Moreover, links between university researchers and industry are poor, according to Takagi. Universities are just beginning to consider establishing patent offices, he said.

BioVision¿s primary focus is to help Western biotechnology firms secure appropriate alliances in an accelerated time frame. It will handle the whole process, from identifying suitable candidates through to filing with Koseisho, Japan¿s drug administration.

Western biotechnology is somewhat open to entering Japan, Godley said. ¿There is a pretty good awareness of Japan, but all of [the Western companies] have a story of woe to tell, of many years of frustration and no results,¿ Godley said. Takagi saw ¿big frustration for both sides.¿

In Takagi, client firms have access to one of the Japanese industry¿s most experienced deal makers. During his tenure as CEO of Grelan, now a US$100 million company, Takagi was responsible for 10 in-licensing deals, primarily with U.S. and European biotechnology and mid-sized pharmaceutical companies. The roll call includes San Diego-based Lidak Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Roberts Pharmaceutical Corp., of Eatontown, N.J.; CytoMed Inc., of Cambridge Mass.; Groupe Fournier, of Dijon, France; Lipha SA, of Lyon, France; and Orion Corp., of Espoo, Finland.