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Takeda, Astellas & Sumitomo Mitsui Form Joint Venture to Lift Japanese Innovation From ‘Valley of Death’

Academic labs are starting points for many biopharmaceutical industry innovations, and Japan’s universities are no exception. But academic scientists often struggle to find the financing and support to turn their discoveries into new companies, leaving the research to languish in what is sometimes referred to as “the valley of death.”

Now Takeda Pharmaceutical, Astellas Pharma, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation are teaming up to form a joint venture intended to advance academic discoveries, primarily innovation from Japan. All three are sharing ownership in the joint venture, whose name has not yet been determined.

The joint venture’s founders say the valley of death has become more pronounced in recent years. In response to this challenge, the companies said they engaged in discussions to establish the joint venture to “seamlessly cover the entire drug discovery process, spanning early drug discovery research through the inception of drug discovery startups.”

The new joint venture will be backed by 600 million Japanese yen (about $3.9 million). The founding companies say they aim to leverage innovative basic research from Japanese academic institutions along with the drug R&D expertise of Astellas and Takeda.

No specific academic collaborators were identified, nor were any therapeutic areas disclosed. The founding companies said the joint venture will be based in Shonan Health Innovation Park, a science park established by Takeda in 2018. Known less formally as Shonan iPark, this site in Fujisawa City is home to about 150 companies employing more than 2,000 people.

Shonan iPark is operated and managed by iPark Institute, which last year took over Takeda’s responsibility for running the science park. Toshio Fujimoto, iPark Institute’s representative director and president, has been appointed CEO of the new joint venture. Fujimoto, whose experience includes roles for Eli Lilly in Japan, will hold both posts concurrently. Now that the master agreement between the three founding companies has been signed, the next step is further discussion about the details for the forthcoming joint venture, which is expected to launch in the middle of this year.

Photo: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

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