Twenty U.S. biotechnology firms are heading to China and Japannext week in search of financial backing for development of theirpharmaceutical products.The Asian trade mission is being coordinated by the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) with theassistance of the U.S. Department of Commerce.BIO President Carl Feldbaum said the Far East trip is the firstpartnering mission organized by the trade association.The objective, he said, is to help emerging biotechnology companiesestablish international contacts they otherwise could not make ontheir own.China and Japan were selected as destinations for BIO's "maiden"venture because the U.S. companies participating expressed thegreatest interest in that region and the response from Asiangovernment and industry officials also was strong."There are really two phases to the mission," Feldbaum said. "Thetrip to China is more trailblazing and setting the stage for futurepartnering missions. In Tokyo, we have a more developed agenda formaking deals."On its 10-day mission, beginning Nov. 7, eight companies will travelfirst to Beijing and Shanghai in China and then go to Hong Kong andShenzhen for meetings with government and industry officials.Those companies then will be joined by 12 others in Japan wherethey will make presentations to pharmaceutical companies at theU.S. Trade Center in Ikebukero."There was some intense interest in expanding the trip to Taiwan,Singapore and Indonesia," Feldbaum said, "but we couldn't do it thistime. That will have to be the focus of a future mission. We hope thiswill lead to a series of missions to Southeast Asia and Europe."While the Far East is considered the world's second largestpharmaceutical market, China, with one-fifth of the globe'spopulation, is in the early stages of biotechnology development."But it's not so early," Feldbaum said, "that you can't imagine itdeveloping very fast and it's not out of the question that deals couldbe made."Companies taking part in the venture are Avigen, of Alameda, Calif.;Canji Inc., of San Diego; Collaborative Laboratories, of EastSetauket, N.Y.; Creative BioMolecules Inc., of Hopkinton, Mass.;Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.; CytRx Corp., ofNorcross, Ga.; ErgoScience, of Charlestown, Mass.; Hybridon Inc.,of Worcester, Mass.; Inhale Therapeutic Systems, of Palo Alto,Calif.; Immulogic Pharmaceutical Corp., of Waltham, Mass.;Immucell Corp., of Portland, Maine; LeukoSite Inc., of Boston;Lexin Pharmaceutical Corp., of Horsham, Pa.; Progenitor Inc., ofAthens, Ohio; Receptagen Ltd., of Edmonds, Wash.; SEQ Ltd., ofPrinceton, N.J.; Seragen Inc., of Hopkinton, Mass.; SignalPharmaceutical Inc., of San Diego; Tanox Biosystems Inc., ofHouston; and the Center for Molecular Crystallography at theUniversity of Alabama in Birmingham. n

-- Charles Craig

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