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No. 360, September 1999

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American Companies in Japan


Late this month, NIPPON FLUOROWARE K.K. is scheduled to begin making fluoroplastic injected-molded wafer-handling carriers for the semiconductor industry at its Yonezawa, Yamagata prefecture factory. NIPPON VALQUA INDUSTRIES, LTD., which owns 10 percent of the company, has been producing this product but, as part of a reorganization of its fluoroplastic business, decided to hand over production to Nippon Fluoroware. Manufacturing equipment is being transferred to Nippon Fluoroware as well as up to 20 employees. Chaska, Minnesota-headquartered ENTEGRIS, INC. is the joint venture's majority (90 percent) owner. This critical materials management company was formed in June through the merger of FLUOROWARE, INC. and a Colorado Springs, Colorado firm in the same business.

To better support users of its semiconductor-grade materials, DOW CHEMICAL CO. tied up with HITACHI CHEMICAL CO., LTD. Under the agreement, the Tokyo company will handle sales, technical support, warehousing and distribution of Dow's SiLK semiconductor dielectric resins, Cyclotene dielectric resins and ancillary chemicals for the semiconductor interlayer dielectric market. People at Dow's subsidiary will be detailed to Hitachi Chemical to share technical support and marketing responsibilities for these products. SiLK resins, introduced in 1996, were developed specifically for use as an interlayer dielectric material in high-performance integrated circuits. They are enjoying growing acceptance in Japan, Dow says, in large part because they help to produce chips with faster processing speeds and reduced "cross talk." SiLK resins are suitable for all existing CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) interconnect technologies using copper/damascene or aluminum/tungsten technologies.

Meanwhile, HITACHI CHEMICAL CO., LTD. became the fourth major company to be licensed by RESEARCH FRONTIERS INC. to make and market on a nonexclusive worldwide basis SPD (suspended particle device) film for electrically and instantaneously controlling the amount of light passing through windows, skylights, sunroofs, eyewear and the like as well as for enabling brighter, easier-to-read flat- panel computer displays. The Woodbury, New York company also gave Hitachi Chemical the right to make and sell to authorized users emulsions used to produce SPD film. Earlier, Research Frontiers made DAINIPPON INK AND CHEMICALS, INC. the first licensed supplier of its emulsions (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 358, July 1999, p. 13).

With a reimbursement price set for Gemzar (gemcitabine HCI), ELI LILLY AND CO.'s subsidiary is marketing this first-line treatment for inoperable, locally advanced or metastatic nonsmall-cell lung cancer. A nucleoside analogue that is used with ciplatin, another anticancer drug, the chemotherapeutic agent disrupts the process of cell replication, thereby slowing or stopping the progression of the lung cancer. Gemzar, which the Ministry of Health and Welfare approved for sale last March, also is indicated for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, although this use has not yet been approved in Japan.

ZENYAKU KOGYO CO., LTD. will have exclusive rights to commercialize for the Japanese market a psoriasis immunotherapeutic agent codeveloped by CORIXA CORP. of Seattle and New Zealand's GENESIS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CORP. PVAC currently is in Phase I/II trials in the Philippines. Under the multiyear agreement, Corixa will receive licensing fees, research funding and milestone payments from its Tokyo partner as well as royalties on future product sales. The American R&D-based biotechnology company recently gave JAPAN TOBACCO INC. rights to commercialize vaccine and antibody-based products from lung cancer antigens that it had developed (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 358, July 1999, p. 13).

Through participation in the Microarray Technology Access Program — an integrated system for high-throughput, quantitative gene expression analysis and functional genomics — TAKEDA CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES, LTD. has gained preferential access to the global microarray technologies of Sunnyvale, California-based AMERSHAM PHARMACIA BIOTECH CORP. Takeda Chemical is the first major Japanese pharmaceutical company to join MTAP, an international consortium of some 30 drug, biotechnology and genomics companies and academic organizations interested in using DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) microarrays to accelerate their R&D efforts. Amersham Pharmacia Biotech is the life sciences affiliate of PHARMACIA & UPJOHN, INC. (45 percent) and NYCOMED AMERSHAM, PLC (55 percent).

Engineers from the Murray Hill, New Jersey industrial gases business of BOC GROUP PLC and MITSUBISHI CHEMICAL CORP. have codeveloped a new process for making maleic anhydride, a product used extensively in the production of synthetic fibers, resins, plastics, elastomers and rubber. The technology combines a MCC- developed catalyst for the oxidation of butane with a patented BOC Gases selective hydrocarbon separation system that recovers and recycles unreacted butane from the maleic anhydride. The process has been deployed at a MCC pilot plant in Kurashiki, Oka-yama prefecture. Japan's top chemical manufacturer also plans to build a bigger facility to expand production using the joint technology. Both BOC Gases and Mitsubishi Chemical are licensing the technology.

A Hawaiian marine biotechnology firm that produces an astaxanthin-rich product from microalgae has made its first sale in Japan. AQUASEARCH INC. did not name the buyer, describing it only as a life sciences company. Microalgae or microscopic plants produce many unique bioactive compounds that have application in such fields as natural colorings, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and agrichemicals.

An exchange rate of ¥113=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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