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No. 352, January 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


Additional supplies of liquid polyimide materials for semiconductor applications are coming on the market with the start-up of a second HD MICROSYSTEMS L.L.C. plant in Parlin, New Jersey. The new facility turns out high-molecular-weight polyimide coatings and photodefinable polyimides -- materials that are used for stress buffer and wafer overcoat as well as for dielectric and passivation layers in chips and thin-film packages. Year-old- plus HD MicroSystems, equally owned by HITACHI CHEMICAL CO., LTD. and E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS & CO., INC., spent approximately $12 million to build a facility with a Class 10,000 cleanroom manufacturing area, a Class 100 cleanroom for filtration and bottling and a Class 10 cleanroom for quality control and functional testing. The new plant in Parlin, which roughly doubles capacity at that location, manufactures the same products as the joint venture's Yamazaki Works in Hitachi City, Ibaraki prefecture.

For between an estimated $17.1 million and $25.6 million, ZEON CHEMICALS INC. will acquire the exclusive right to purchase all the nitrile-butadiene rubber produced by DSM COPOLYMER INC. at its Baton Rouge, Louisiana plant. The wholly owned NIPPON ZEON CO., LTD. subsidiary will be responsible for worldwide marketing of DSM Copolymer's 15,000-ton-per-year output of Nysyn NBR and Nysynblak NBR. This volume will solidify Nippon Zeon's position as the world's top NBR supplier, giving it a projected 33 percent of the market versus the 29 percent it has now with its own Nipol brand. This type of synthetic rubber is used to manufacture such products as engine hoses and oil seals. Louisville, Kentucky-headquartered Zeon Chemicals is the leading producer of specialty elastomers in the United States. It operates out of plants in Louisville and Hattiesburg, Mississippi that Nippon Zeon bought in 1989 from BF GOODRICH CO. as well as a facility that opened the following year in Bayport, Texas. The deal with DSM Copolymer is expected to close in late March.

A second Japanese firm is working with INSPIRE PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. to develop its INS365 therapeutic. SANTEN PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD., one of the world's top makers of ophthalmic drugs, and the Durham, North Carolina company are developing INS365 for the treatment of dry eye disease, a common cause of eye irritation and impaired vision. Under the terms of their partnership, Santen will forward to Inspire up to $6.25 million for equity investments and milestone payments in exchange for exclusive rights to market the INS365 ophthalmic in Japan and nine other Asian countries on a royalty basis. Last fall, KISSEI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. teamed up with Inspire to advance INS365 for respiratory tract problems, the drug's main target (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 349, October 1998, pp. 2-3). The North Carolina drug discovery and development firm is funded by a venture capital syndicate that includes JAFCO CO., LTD. as one of four major participants.

In their second major collaborative effort, JAPAN TOBACCO INC. and CELL GENESYS, INC. will apply the Foster City, California firm's GVAX cancer vaccine program to prostate cancer and another target to be determined later. GVAX, which currently is undergoing Phase I and Phase II clinical studies in the United States, is designed to destroy a cancer by stimulating a patient's immune system. JT and Cell Genesys will equally split product development costs and future profits, with the diversified Japanese company having marketing rights in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea and its American partner in charge of sales in the United States. The financial terms of their agreement are complex, but Cell Genesys could receive $45 million or so from JT during the first two years of the new relationship and considerably more in time. The pair tied up initially in 1991, an arrangement that led to the development of a human monoclonal antibody technology that now is being commercialized by a Cell Genesys affiliate. JT owns approximately 3 percent of Cell Genesys.

Having decided that cell therapy holds promise as a treatment for cancer, chronic infectious diseases and autoimmune diseases, KIRIN BREWERY CO., LTD. tied up with two pioneers in the field to get this new business off to a fast start. It is working with DENDREON CORP. to develop and commercialize therapeutic products based on the Mountain View, California biotechnology firm's dendritic cell technology, which stimulates immune responses. Kirin received a license to employ Dendreon's know-how in Asia in exchange for a signing fee, milestone payments and royalties on sales. At the same time, the Japanese firm made an equity investment of unknown size in its partner and agreed to buy additional stock when Dendreon makes an initial public offering. The California firm's first product, a treatment for prostate cancer, is in late-stage clinical trials in the United States. Kirin will begin clinical testing of an unstated cell therapy in Japan this year.

KIRIN BREWERY CO., LTD. also gained access to a different approach to cell therapy -- stem cell transfusion -- through an alliance with AMCELL CORP. Under this deal, it became the exclusive distributor of the Sunnyvale, California start-up's current and future CliniMACS cell selection systems. The first product in this line, the CD34+, makes it possible to select CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells from bone marrow, peripheral blood or cord blood. Early in 1999, Kirin will begin the process to get AmCell's product approved for sale in Japan.

ASAHI CHEMICAL INDUSTRY CO., LTD. exercised an option under an August 1997 agreement with BIOSTAR, INC. to develop a point-of-care diagnostic test for pneumonia. The two have been working on the development of rapid diagnostic tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Under the terms of the revamped arrangement, Asahi Chemical has the exclusive right to make and market in Japan and certain other countries specified point-of-care diagnostics for sexually transmitted and respiratory diseases that use the Boulder, Colorado company's thin-film and ellipsometer technologies. The Japanese partner is financing most of the costs of developing the test kits covered by the deal with BioStar, which recently became a THERMO ELECTRON CORP. company, on top of paying it licensing fees.

Japan's top radiopharmaceutical company, NIHON MEDI-PHYSICS CO., LTD., plans to sign a second development agreement with PALATIN TECHNOLOGIES INC. under which the Princeton, New Jersey biopharmaceutical firm will develop diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceutical products based on its MIDAS peptide technology. The arrangement, expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 1999, calls for unspecified up-front payments by Nihon Medi-Physics along with milestone payments. The Japanese company and Palatin Technologies recently terminated their first development agreement, signed in late 1996, after deciding to change the focus of their collaboration.

Two Japanese companies have filed new drug applications with the Food and Drug Administration. Princeton, New Jersey-based TAKEDA AMERICA RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER, INC. is seeking approval to market ACTOS (pioglitazone hydrochloride) tablets for the treatment of Type II diabetes. ACTOS is a member of a new class of oral antidiabetes agents called thiazolidinediones. They reduce insulin resistance -- the body's inability to use effectively its own insulin -- which is considered a leading cause of Type II diabetes. The other class of Type II antidiabetes drugs stimulates the body's insulin production or limits glucose production. Once the go-ahead is received, expected in 2000, TAKEDA PHARMACEUTICALS AMERICA, INC. of New York City will copromote ACTOS with ELI LILLY AND CO. under a May 1998 agreement.

For its part, SNOW BRAND MILK PRODUCTS CO., LTD. has applied to the FDA to market a treatment for Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease largely affecting women that causes inflammation of the glands that produce tears and the ones that make saliva. Cevimelin, which Snow Brand codeveloped with NIPPON KAYAKU CO., LTD., is a selective agonist that binds with the muscarinic receptors to stimulate tear and salivary production. The Japanese firm hopes to gain sales approval within 1999.

An exchange rate of ¥117=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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