On December 15, Yokohama City and Link-J hosted the first live webinar on NY’s life science ecosystem out of the new “Yokohama LINK-J Life Science Lounge@NYC” partnership. In October 2022, Yokohama City and the organization Life science Innovation Network Japan (LINK-J) entered a collaborative partnership to establish a space in New York City for information exchange related to the life science industry. This inaugural seminar was held in a hybrid format in Japanese, with in-person attendees alongside nearly 500 online registered participants.
Keynote: Why Pharma Companies should be looking at the US
Shunichi Takahashi, Secretary General and COO of LINK-J, kicked off the seminar by introducing LINK-J. Ken Akaoka, Executive Officer of the Office of the City of Yokohama Rep. to the Americas continued the opening by introducing Yokohama’s support for the life science industry.
Norikazu Eiki, former chairman of Bayer Yakuhin, then presented a keynote lecture touching on reasons why Japanese pharmaceutical companies should be interested in expanding into the US life science market. According to Mr. Eiki, the medical and pharmaceuticals industries made more progress in the last ten months of 2020 than it did in the last decade. He then followed by explaining the differences between Japan and the US in terms of market size and growth potential, investment environment, and demographics. He also brought up the US’s vaccine development strategy that did not limit itself to domestic production, and included government and private funding for R&D, as well as the polarization between large pharmaceutical companies and newer, emerging ones.
He concluded the lecture by advising Japanese companies that the key to their growth in the US was threefold: raise funds from the US, send young talent to the US, and leverage partnerships with academia.
Panel Discussion: New York’s Life Science Ecosystem
The panel discussion that followed the keynote lecture focused on exploring New York’s life science ecosystem from the perspectives of industry, investment, and government. Mr. Eiki participated in the panel discussion following his lecture, commenting that one of the characteristics of New York is the high concentration of wealthy individuals involved in venture capital, and that many decision-making headquarters of pharmaceutical companies are located in New York and neighboring New Jersey.
Another panelist, Hidetoshi Takeda, Senior Advisor at CMIC Holdings Co., Ltd., has a background in investment, and noted during the discussion that New York is a financial hub, and because it is that kind of hub, it also naturally is home to a wealth of information, meaning that ultimately New York’s financial power is indispensable to startups that wish to scale, for multiple reasons. Mr Eiki added to the comment, saying that New York venture capitalists tend to be surprisingly knowledgeable about the science behind new innovations in the space, which is another reason why it’s important for Japanese companies to come to New York to learn and take advantage not only of the financial environment, but the seeds of new drug development that are in motion as well.
The third panelist, Toshikazu Yazawa, Director at the Office of the City of Yokohama Rep. to the Americas, emphasized the importance of the role played by the state and the city itself in the formation of New York City’s life science ecosystem. As examples, he noted current New York state and NYC initiatives to contribute more than $1.5 billion to the commercialization of the life sciences over 10 years have recently been implemented, including promoting translational research at universities, attracting incubators, and developing more lab space.
A Message for Japanese Companies
For Japanese companies, Mr. Eiki noted the importance of becoming an “insider” in the United States. Mr. Takeda mentioned his appreciation for the dynamism of New York and the United States as a whole, and how he wished to help carry that kind of energy back to Japan, expressing his hopes of international collaboration contributing to a shared model for success. Mr. Yazawa spoke on his hopes that the Yokohama LINK-J Life Science Lounge can serve as a point of contact that helps bridge the gap between Japan and the United States. Mr. Shunichi Takahashi, who acted as the moderator during the discussion, in closing added his own remarks that in terms of becoming a hub for information specifically, NY’s life science ecosystem seems to have even more promise that other major life science clusters in the US such as Boston, San Francisco, and San Diego, and that a major takeaway for Japanese companies should be the importance of physically coming to the US to experience the differences in the pacing, industry, and energy themselves.
A recording of the event is available here:
*Please note: This event was held entirely in Japanese. Auto-translated captions are available on YouTube, but their accuracy cannot be guaranteed.