AN Venture Partners, a global biotech venture capital fund, hosted an event with support from the US Embassy in Japan on December 4, 2023, to bring attention to US-Japan cross-border developments in the areas of start-ups and life science innovation.

Contributions from key stakeholders like Japanese pharmaceutical companies, academic research institutions, financial institutions, government agencies, and global capitalists are critical to accelerate growth of the Japanese Biotech Ecosystem. One such example is the creation of a new kind of venture capital (“VC”) organization, like AN Venture Partners, that will focus on bringing Japanese science to global markets. Ecosystem events such as this event will hopefully promote such initiatives and lead to more.

A key feature of the AN Venture Partners’ event was a panel discussion focusing on how to further develop the Japanese Biotech ecosystem in order to highlight the potential for life science innovation in Japan. Panelists included:

Tomoko Namba, Vice Chair of Keidanren and the Founder & Chairperson of DeNA

Isao Teshirogi, PhD, Representative Director, President & CEO of Shionogi & Co, Ltd

Keith Crandell, Co-founder and Managing Director of ARCH Venture Partners

Ken Horne, Founder and Managing Partner of AN Venture Partners

Phil Wickham, Founder & Managing Partner of Sozo Ventures

Summary of the discussion:

  • The research level of research in Japan is high in life sciences

  • Japan’s start-up ecosystem needs more support to develop these innovations, particularly to global standards.

  • Three key areas of support needed for the ecosystem are:

    • Availability of more risk capital
    • Life science entrepreneurs who have experienced success
    • Team members who have translational development experience
  • Japan can benefit from lessons learnt in creating such a VC ecosystem in the US. This system can be adapted with the help of US expertise to build something unique for Japan.

  • Japan needs to develop an appetite for risk and reward that supports innovation. This includes being able to embrace failure. Without this, innovation will not be able to flourish. US VC companies including AN Ventures, can help with this process.

  • An IPO is not necessarily a goal – bringing good technology to people is.

  • Media attention for scientific entrepreneurship in Japan is not as developed as in the US, making it hard to attract the best talent to start-ups.

  • Japan is perfectly timed for growth – a country-level emphasis on innovation coupled with Japan’s stability in today’s chaotic world makes Japan a great opportunity for entrepreneurship.

The US Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Rahm Emanuel also spoke at the event, which was attended by over 130 distinguished guests from pharmaceutical companies, financial institutions, research institutions, universities, members of Keidanren and government entities.