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No. 359, August 1999

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American Companies in Japan


In an agreement that could be worth as much as $10 million over the next year, SOUTHWALL TECHNOLOGIES INC. is supplying antireflective film to MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP. to coat flat CRT (cathode-ray tube) computer monitors made in Japan as well as in Mexico. The film is made at Southwall's headquarters plant in Palo Alto, California and at a Tempe, Arizona factory.

With the installation of a dedicated line at the Yamagata prefecture factory of its manufacturing subsidiary, SUMITOMO 3M LTD. can make a protective film for vehicle windows that it has been importing from its American parent. Scotchtint Auto Panther Film blocks ultraviolet and infrared rays as well as keeps interiors cooler in hot weather. It also helps to prevent the glass from breaking into dangerous shards in case of an accident. Coating the side windows as well as the rear window of a car or truck costs roughly $290, including installation. Sumitomo 3M is looking for first-year Scotchtint Auto sales of $4.2 million.

UNION CARBIDE CORP. did about $133.3 million worth of business in Japan in 1998. In three years, it wants to boost that total to at least $166.7 million. One key to the expansion is the introduction of the Danbury, Connecticut-headquartered firm's ethylene-propylene rubber. Used for single-ply roofing materials, automotive hose, tubing and gaskets, tire sidewalls and wire and cable jackets, the compounds, trademarked ElastoFlo polymers, are delivered to manufacturers in a unique, free- flowing granular form. That makes them easier to handle and use. Union Carbide says that this form also means shorter mixing cycles, better dispersion, lower energy requirements and reduced waste disposal. The company's ethylene-propylene rubber plant in Seadrift, Texas came onstream at the end of 1998.

With more people experiencing problems from what is called indoor air pollution, which is caused by the release of chemicals from paints, construction materials and furnishings, AMERICAN FORMULATING AND MANUFACTURING hopes to find a ready market for its primers, paints and stains. Its Safecoat products contain no hazardous or toxic materials and keep so-called offgassing to minimal levels. Recently named distributor TECHNOTOOLS TOKAI CO., LTD. of Gifu prefecture is carrying some 30 Safecoat products, including water-based enamel, flat, eggshell, semigloss and cabinet and trim paints and furniture stains. San Diego, California-based AFM expects sales to reach $833,300 in the first year of marketing.

A variety of medium-grain rice that has been genetically engineered to tolerate the application of MONSANTO CO.'s widely used but nonselective Roundup herbicide is undergoing field trials at the chemical company's research farm in Ibaraki prefecture. If the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries approves the product as safe, Roundup Ready rice could be marketed as early as FY 2000, giving rice growers a way to control weeds more effectively during the growing season while using less herbicide on average.

The strong growth in Japan's over-the-counter drug market that MERCK & CO., INC. expected in late 1996 when it formed a company with CHUGAI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. to develop and sell OTC products has not materialized despite Tokyo's interest in controlling health-care spending. Accordingly, the big American pharmaceutical company will sell its 40 percent stake in CHUGAI MSD CO., LTD. to its partner. The timing of the breakup of the money-losing joint venture, which had 1998 sales of approximately $15 million, has not been finalized, but it will occur before March 31, 2000. Merck will continue to be a major player in Japan's prescription drug market through its majority ownership of BANYU PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD.

PHARMACIA & UPJOHN, INC.'s subsidiary has two new prescription drugs on the market. Migsis Tablet (lomerizine hydrochloride) is indicated for the treatment of migraine headaches, a problem thought to affect between 7 million and 8 million Japanese, nearly 90 percent of whom go without treatment. The only calcium antagonist approved for migraines in Japan, Migsis is designed to prevent attacks rather than control them, the typical response. KANEBO, LTD. first synthesized the calcium antagonist used in Migsis and helped P&U's subsidiary to develop the compound. Likewise, KISSEI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. participated in the development of Cabaser Tablets (cabergoline) for the Japanese market. This treatment for early-stage Parkinson's disease and advanced Parkinson's disease when combined with levodopa was discovered by P&U. Cabaser belongs to the class of drugs known as dopamine agonists that stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain by mimicking the effects of dopamine. A major advantage of Cabaser, which is manufactured locally by P&U and sold by Kissei Pharmaceutical, is that it can be administered once a day rather than three times daily like other dopamine agonists.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare's new fast-track evaluation process for innovative HIV therapies will get an early test. KISSEI PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. has filed for approval of Prozei (amprenavir), an orally administered HIV protease inhibitor that was discovered by VERTEX PHARMACEUTICALS INC. and developed and commercialized for the Japanese market by the Cambridge, Massachusetts company and its partner over the last six years. Known outside Japan by the trade name Agenerase, Prozei is indicated in combination with other antiretroviral agents for the treatment of HIV infection. Vertex and Kissei Pharmaceutical continue to collaborate on the development of VX-745, a p38 MAP kinase inhibitor for the treatment of inflammatory diseases (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 347, August 1998, p. 2).

TRANSDUCTION LABORATORIES of Lexington, Kentucky awarded FUJISAWA PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD. exclusive rights to market its line of cell biology reagents in Japan. These products, which complement the Japanese drug firm's flow cytometry reagents, mainly employ immune reactions (antigen versus antibody reactions) and are used to analyze intracellular mechanisms. TDL, which specializes in the development of monoclonal antibodies for the cell biology area, is a BECTON DICKINSON AND CO. affiliate.

Building on an earlier agreement (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 354, March 1999, p. 13), PARACELSIAN, INC. gave KUBOTA CORP. the go-ahead to further develop its patented dioxin test for use in screening samples of ash from municipal waste incinerators in Japan. The Ithaca, New York company bills its Ah Immunoassay as an highly accurate yet quick and inexpensive way to measure dioxin in incinerator ash. It also can be used to detect dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in food, soil, water and even blood.

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

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