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No. 353, February 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


World sales of impact-resistant Metton, a specialty liquid resin used for molding complex shapes, could reach 16,500 tons a year by 2003, a 150 percent jump, according to developer TEIJIN LTD. To that end, the big plastics manufacturer is taking several steps to beef up its Metton business in the United States. For starters, Teijin increased its stake in Abingdon, Virginia-headquartered METTON AMERICA INC. to 61 percent from the 36 percent it had acquired at the end of 1996. Most of the balance is owned by 21ST CENTURY CONTAINERS, LTD., with trader NICHIMEN CORP. holding a small share. In cooperation with MARUZEN PETROCHEMICAL CO., LTD., Metton America also will build a plant next year near its LaPorte, Texas production facilities for dicyclopentadiene, a key Metton input now imported from Japan. The plant could cost anywhere from $8.3 million to double that figure. In addition, a Metton technical service center will be established in this country, possibly as soon as 2000. All of these moves are geared to rising demand for Metton from truck and construction machinery manufacturers in the United States and Europe.

Volume production of excimer laser photoresists has started at JSR MICROELECTRONICS, INC. in Sunnyvale, California. Photoresists are a photosensitive resin solution used for imaging circuits on semiconductor wafers. As chips become more complex, circuit geometries shrink. Consequently, manufacturers are switching to excimer laser lithography systems because of their ability to print smaller circuit dimensions with larger process latitude. The excimer laser photoresists made by the JSR CORP. subsidiary can be used for imaging circuit features in the wavelength range of 150 nanometers to 180 nm, although JSR Microelectronics has developed excimer photoresist technology capable of imaging 125-nm circuit features. On opening in March 1997, the plant made positive-type i-line (365-nm) photoresists. It has the capacity to turn out 125,000 gallons of photoresists annually.

Continuing its search for ways to accelerate the drug discovery process, JAPAN TOBACCO INC. has reached agreement with SANGAMO BIOSCIENCES, INC. to use its Universal GeneTools platform to validate novel gene targets. The Point Richmond, California company's technology enables the design and the generation of highly specific zinc finger proteins — transcription factors that selectively can recognize and regulate any target gene or DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Japan Tobacco is providing an undisclosed amount of funding to Sangamo.

America's Blood Centers, a nationwide network of nonprofit, independent community blood banks that provides nearly half of the U.S. blood supply, has joined the American Red Cross in evaluating a new blood-screening system developed by San Diego, California-based GEN-PROBE INC. and CHIRON CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 353, February 1999, p. 20). Their investigational system uses transcription-medi-ated amplification, a state-of-the-art technology for nucleic acid testing originated by Gen-Probe, that can detect infectious viruses, especially the hepatitis C virus and the human immunodeficiency virus, in blood samples before donors develop antibodies to them. Gen-Probe is a CHUGAI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. company.

An exchange rate of ¥120=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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