Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the October 3, 2001
edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Rising Sun in Princeton
Here are the Japanese companies in Princeton. For the introduction to
this article, see www.princetoninfo.com/200110/11003c01.html
From the very beginning, Kyowa Hakko Kogyo has been
a research-oriented company. "Our current president is a medicinal
chemist, and two-thirds of our presidents have been researchers,"
says Tetsushi Inada, president of the pharmaceutical division, Kyowa
Pharmaceutical Inc. "We believe our `science driven culture’ will
be successful in the scientific market."
The 10th largest pharmaceutical firm in Japan is indeed proud of its
heritage. The backbone of this company is science, not consumer
and its early expertise in fermentation technology helped get a good
bargaining position with the big pharmas in the United States.
The 52-year-old company moved its United States office from Manhattan
to 13,000 square feet at the Carnegie Center two years ago, and it
has 30 employees here. Kyowa Pharmaceuticals is working on the
development of such drugs as anti-cancer and anti-Parkinson’s disease
agents. The company has one of the most extensive lines of amino acids
and related compounds and is known for the production of the
CoenzymeQ10. CoQ10 has been used to treat congestive heart failure
in Japan for 30 years, and more than 6 million Japanese take it now.
The parent company draws on its fermentation, chemical synthesis and
biotechnologies, and about 1,400 researchers — one-fourth of its
labor force — work in nine research laboratories worldwide.
areas include pharmaceuticals, fine and industrial chemicals and
animal health products, nutritional supplements, and food.
The move to the United States emphasizes that, instead of limiting
itself to licensing compounds from western countries and providing
chemically made and natural ingredients to the big Western pharmas,
Kyowa is investing in its own research. It plans to export its own
finished products, particularly in the areas of oncology and the
nervous system. "Now we want to focus on our own discoveries,"
says Inada. "Some of our compounds are ready."
Visitors to Kyowa’s third floor Carnegie Center office pass through
a tranquil waiting room, with Japanese prints depicting cranes, to
reach Inada’s corner suite. He tells a story
about Kyowa’s beginnings that has resonance for its business model
The words "Kyowa" and "Hakko" translate to
and "fermentation," he says. Kyowa’s founder was a biochemist
and army officer, named Cato, who was trying to make fuel for
and ships during World War II. Cato tried to adapt basic fermentation
technology for industrial use. After the war, he successfully
with the United States Navy to get control of a big sugar plant on
the western island of Japan, and the Navy shipped molasses from Guam
to the factory at almost no charge.
"The starting material was almost free," says Inada. Soon
the factory was producing a wide selection of foods, ingredients,
and food-related products such as amino acids and nucleic acids for
the manufacture of food, liquor, fine chemicals, biochemicals, and
A big breakthrough came when, in the 1950s and ’60s, Kyowa devised
a way to make monosodiumglutamate (MSG) using fermentation — an
inexpensive process compared to the extraction and purifying method
used at the time. "Their method was expensive," says Inada.
"Our founder focused on mass production at low cost, but it was
still very profitable."
In the 1960s and ’70s the company filed many patents for using
to produce amino acids and nucleic acids. Now it is one of just a
handful of companies to be able to supply large quantities of medical
quality amino acids, suitable for injectable fluids, and it has 30
percent of the market for injectable fluids in the United States.
Kyowa also has its own formulary for streptomycin.
An early milestone was Cato’s visit to Merck. "A huge licensing
fee created the
basis of the pharmaceutical entity," says Inada, "and started
collaborative work with Merck."
At least partly because Kyowa has so much knowledge in the
area, it now has a joint discovery program with both Merck and Abbott
Laboratories. In 1978 Kyowa Hakko also put together a joint venture
with Johnson & Johnson, now called Janssen-Kyowa, that sells 10
products, including an antipsychotic drug, Risperdale, and an oral
anti-fungal drug, Itrizole. Kyowa licenses an anticancer drug to
Squibb, sends bulk pharmaceuticals to Bristol-Myers and Eli Lilly,
and Eli Lilly has taken drugs for approval.
Inada grew up 40 minutes from Osaka, on a "nice
quiet island" and went to a high school, Takamatsu, with a more
than 100-year history. He keeps up with the 950 people in his class
via the Internet, and in Tokyo the school’s parties draw alumni.
He went to Ikayoma College and to Osaka Medical School, choosing to
do a PhD because he liked the science, but not the
practice. He did immune systems and oncology research for eight years
at Brandeis and MIT’s cancer center. After working in Manhattan for
a dozen years, commuting from Berkeley Heights, he moved to Princeton
two years ago. He and his wife have two sons, one a stockbroker in
Tokyo, the other attending Mercer Community College.
He learned from his late father, a business man, "to enjoy life,
to do whatever you want. He lived in such a way — he worked very
hard, and he played a lot of golf."
"We are supporting Japan’s effort — and products," says
Joe Brindisi, general counsel and vice president of business
"We have a commercialization vision but are not ready to call
it a strategy. Starting with global distribution efforts, we are
rapidly and are going to at least double in size next year. So while
there are job cuts elsewhere, Kyowa is doing very well."
Despite its support in technology and finance, Kyowa considers itself
a startup, with all the excitement that entails. "Cato created
a business from nothing, and in the states we are responsible to
a pharmaceutical business from nothing," says Inada. "It is
fortunate we have a strong support pipeline."
Center, Suite 301, Princeton 08540. Tetsushi Inada PhD, president.
609-919-1100; fax, 609-919-1111.
Akros Pharma Inc. has grown exponentially since it
an office here last fall and now has a 15,000 square foot space and
35 employees in the Carnegie Center. Akros — the Greek word for
pinnacle — is overseeing clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe,
establishing relationships with biotech companies and universities,
and arranging licensing agreements.
Tatsuya Yoneyama, the president of the 13-year-old firm, had the
to locate the company anywhere. "I decided New Jersey should be
the place for us — it is a mecca for pharmaceutical
says Yoneyama. "I visited all of New Jersey. I started out in
the northern part of New Jersey and went from north to South. It was
cold bleak winter, all covered with snow. Usually Japanese American
companies are based in the northern part, but the trend is coming
down. Princeton is the southern limit."
An avid golfer for 25 years (he claims a single digit handicap), he
likes the course at Jasna Polana, but as for the town of Princeton,
it is much smaller than he had imagined. "Nassau Street has some
pretty good restaurants and shops, but the first day I went to the
town, I thought there should be a bigger one!"
Yoneyama considers his location a prime recruiting incentive. He chose
the newest Carnegie Center building, and its cathedral ceiling
feels like the interior of a very big teahouse. Inside, the office
has a spacious, elegant feeling. "This is very beautiful —
maybe the atmosphere will appeal to people. We are still hiring people
and will expand to one-third more space," he says.
The pharmaceutical arm of Japan Tobacco (JT), based in Tokyo, Akros
bills itself as a "research-heavy" organization, with 85
of its workforce as scientists and more than 100 internal programs.
Yoneyama helped strike an early partnership with a Warner Lambert
company, Agouron, in the joint development of an AIDS drug, Viracept,
the top selling protease inhibitor in the U.S. "Agouron didn’t
have financial resources, and they knew us and proposed the
he says. "We had to center development work in the United States.
It was on the fast track for the FDA, but it took us nearly three
years. With fewer side effects and easier compliance, it had the
one position after two years. Sales level off, and other drugs are
on the market, but it is still saving a lot of lives."
At some point, Akros turned away from licensing products out to other
companies. "We decided it was time to do it ourselves," he
says. "This could be a foothold for the future of our
For business development, his firm had been spending time and money
on services from American companies. "If we put that function
in with this company, it makes it very smooth." Akros plans for
its pharmaceutical business to break even in five or six years.
With concentration on metabolic and renal diseases, cardiovascular
conditions, inflammation and immunology, and antivirals, Akros works
with combinatorial chemistry and with genomics, in collaboration with
Maryland-based Gene Logic. It is doing early clinical studies in the
therapeutic areas of virology, pain management and diabetes mellitus.
Akros has licensed its products to such companies as Johnson & Johnson
and Pharmacia & Upjohn.
With Tularik in San Francisco, it is using gene regulation for
for metabolic diseases, on diabetes and obesity, and on orphan nuclear
receptors. Other partners are Chiron in the Bay Area, and Corixa in
In the United Kingdom, Akros has several programs — a proof of
concept study for a pain drug, and ones for anticoagulation and
— and they will soon be ready to file with the USFDA.
Yoneyama was born in Tokyo in 1948, and in postwar Japan
his parents struggled to educate him and his older brother. His father
had a printing company, but his real passion was cartooning and
novels, novels that did not sell well, Yoneyama adds. His parents
were unusually lenient. "They just let me do whatever I wanted,
and that was a good thing for me," he says.
He made a particularly unusual move when he chose to attend an
college, Hokkaido University, in the hinterlands of Sapporo. The
was influenced by an American scholar from Massachusetts, W.L. Clark.
Clark inspired a nation of young men with his dictum, Boys, Be
"It’s a phrase everyone knows in Japan, and it was very inspiring
to everyone, even me," he says. "The Christian influence at
the school was very strong." He majored in chemistry, graduating
Yoneyama has worked in the pharmaceutical area for the past 10 years,
but right after graduation, he joined Japan Tobacco (JT). This is his
third international assignment,
and his wife and daughter have stayed in Tokyo. He represented the
business in U.S. tobacco centers, Georgia and North Carolina, and
then transferred to Thailand before going back to Japan.
"At that time Japan Tobacco was a state owned company. Twelve or
13 years ago it was allowed to go public, so we could start any
business, and pharmaceutical is one of the main businesses
we focus on," he says. "They say the tobacco industry has
deep pockets. But the tobacco business is so thin, so expensive
— labor costs are relatively high, and our manufacturing costs
are higher. The average pack costs $20 now."
Still, he assures himself, "The money men know the pharmaceutical
business takes a lot of time to be fully profitable. They are patient
even now, and we are spending a lot of money. We have one profit
He finds it exhilarating to be at the head of a pharmaceutical company
with high goals. "I had the same feeling when I had the job with
Agouron," says Yoneyama, recounting the triumph. "There was
no medicine for AIDS, yet there were potentially nearly 1 million
affected people. This job is very challenging."
Princeton 08540. Tatsuya Yoneyama, president. 609-919-9570; fax,
Ono Pharmaceutical has a policy of releasing no information, says the
person in charge at this site.
The youngest of the companies here, it is based in Osaka but its first
United States office was in Hackensack. It moved to 12,000 square
feet at Princeton Plaza Corporate Center Drive last December (U.S.
1, September 6, 2000) and has grown to about 20 employees. With
it is doing clinical studies.
Pike Corporate Center, Lawrenceville 08648. Katsura Kasahara,
president. 609-219-1010; fax, 609-219-9229.
Now based in Osaka and Tokyo, Teijin was founded in 1918 and pioneered
in textiles — rayon, nylon, and polyesters — for its first
50 years. It went into the healthcare business with partnerships in
1971 and set up its own pharmaceutical division in 1978. In addition
to producing home health-care equipment it has researchers working
in three therapeutic areas: respiratory ailments, bone calcium
disorders, and cardiovascular disorders.
This four-person office in Alexander Park opened in July 2000, and
Tamatsu Koyama, managing director, does not wish to provide
information or particular information about the office’s activities.
The company trades on the Tokyo stock exchange.
304, Princeton 08540. Tamatsu Koyama, managing director. 609-716-7636;
Another Japanese pharmaceutical company, Kirin, has
an important connection to Princeton, an agreement with Medarex Inc.,
the State Road-based company founded by Donald Drakeman and known
worldwide for its transgenic mice that create fully human antibodies.
Kirin had its own mouse that was able to produce all the five major
types and the subtypes of antibodies. Kirin agreed to give Medarex
access to its mouse plus $12 million. The two companies now have
to each other’s technology and were able to cross-breed their mice.
The result, unveiled last December, is called the Kirin Medarex (KM)
In Medarex’ UltiMAb system now are the HuMAb mouse, the Kirin mouse,
and the Kirin Medarex mouse. Both companies have a clear intellectual
property position, says a spokesperson.
Kirin is the pharmaceutical division of Japan’s leading beer company,
the fourth largest in the world by sales volume (www.kirin.co.jp).
In pharmaceuticals Kirin is working in the fields of renal,
immune systems and allergy-related diseases, cancer, and blood cell
production. Its recombinant DNA-based ESPO (erythropoietin) and GRAN
(G-CSF), co-developed with Amgen, have annual sales exceeding $300
million in Asia.
Suite 206, Princeton 08540. Donald L. Drakeman, president.
fax, 609-430-2850. Home page: www.medarex.com
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