TOKYO _ The Japanese government is betting on biotechnology _specifically genomics _ with up to 10 billion that could beavailable for projects as soon as April.

The Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI)and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications were founded bythe Japan Key Technology Center last year to support developmentactivities by private companies. The center now is consideringsupporting programs related to genomics research. A review of theproposal should be complete by the end of March.

Michiya Niizeki, spokesman for the Industrial Bureau of MITI, toldBioWorld International that the idea is to contribute a total of 6billion, 70 percent of which would come from the government and 30percent from 20 major private corporations. If the proposal isadopted, private industry can apply for loans beginning April 1,1996, for financial support of their genomics research.

Niizeki did not reveal details of how the loans will be administered.

Hiroshi Moriguchi, of the Research and Development Division,Pharmaceutical Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Health and Welfare(MHW), said that a similar plan is underway at MHW. A nationallyoperated venture capital fund will be established from the 1996 fiscalyear budget. Dubbed the Genome Pharmaceutical Science ResearchCentre, it is expected to raise 4 billion, 55 percent from thegovernment and 45 percent from 10 major pharmaceuticalcompanies.

Like the program under the Japan Key Technology Center, the fundwill be used to support genomics research by private companies. Theloans will be due, in full, upon the successful completion of adevelopment project, Moriguchi said. This fund will be used forloans with no interest.

Niizeki said he believes that this program also will be completed byMarch, when further details will be released. n

-- Paul Makino BioWorld International Correspondent

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.