2022-07-19| InterviewsSpecial

How the Greater Tokyo Region Could Be the Next Promising Biocommunity

by Richard Chau
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Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) organized the Japan Pavilion at 2022 BIO International Convention (BIO2022) held in San Diego, California, with more than 20 Japanese biotechnology and biopharma companies participating in the event this year. As the event organizer, JETRO has been an active coordinator to support Japanese companies in their overseas business deployment.

Apart from JETRO, Japan Bioindustry Association (JBA) was another key supporter of this event. Thomas Huang, CEO of GeneOnline, had the pleasure to interview Yoshiaki Tsukamoto, Executive Director of JBA, for a concise overview of Japan’s Bioeconomy Strategy and an introduction of the concept of Greater Tokyo Biocommunity (GTB).

Japan’s Bioeconomy Strategy

In 2019, the Japanese government released Japan’s Bioeconomy Strategy to achieve the overall goal of “realizing the world’s most advanced bioeconomy society in Japan by 2030” by expanding the market domain of bioindustry while leveraging Japan’s strengths in this field. Implementation of the strategy mainly focused on three major areas: (1) expansion of the bioeconomy market (Bio-manufacturing, primary production and healthcare industry), aiming for a total market size of $840 billion in 2030 from currently $550 billion; (2) formation of biocommunities for activating distinctive bio-industries throughout the country and attracting investments around the world while also connecting with global clusters; and (3) promotion of data linkage, creating the environment for data linkage (genome data, bio-manufacturing supporting data, smart breeding data, etc.), developing the data platform for R&D projects and providing guidelines for data linkage and usage.

As a keen contributor of the development of bioindustry in response to Japan’s bioeconomy strategy, Tsukamoto states that JBA is working in various fields including lobbying and policy dialogues with the government, providing the latest technical information, promoting open innovation, creating domestic and global networks and developing bioindustry infrastructure.

Related article: BIO 2022: Challenges in Developing Cell and Gene Therapies  

Yoshiaki Tsukamoto, Executive Director of JBA interviewed by Thomas Huang, CEO of GeneOnline.
Yoshiaki Tsukamoto, Executive Director of JBA interviewed by Thomas Huang, CEO of GeneOnline.

What is the Concept of Greater Tokyo Biocommunity (GTB)?

As mentioned above, formation of global and local biocommunities is one of the key measures of executing Japan’s Bioeconomy Strategy by the Cabinet Office in order to attract talent and investment worldwide to expand biotechnology-related markets, strengthen the ability to provide products and services in each market domain, and improve the ability to enter global markets. 

In June 2021, the government certified Hokkaido, Tsuruoka, Nagaoka, and Fukuoka as regional biocommunities. In April 2022, the Greater Tokyo Biocommunity (GTB) in the Tokyo area was certified by the government as one of the two global biocommunities in Japan as an approach to making the Tokyo area one of world’s premier innovation centers in bioindustry.

Tsukamoto pointed out that promoting the establishment of GTB is another major contribution made by JBA, of which the association plays a secretariat role. Through the activities in GTB, it is hoped that a bio-related products value chain from innovation to commercialization and social implementation by activating academia, biotechnology start-ups, and existing companies, promoting a virtuous cycle of people, goods, and money as well as catalyzing the organic cooperation among various stakeholders of the biotechnology industry (national and local governments, universities, research institutions, companies, financial institutions, investors, etc.).

Currently there are 8 bio-innovation hubs in the GTB area. “Each hub has unique academic and business activities. For foreign people, there will be big opportunities of cooperation and investment in these innovation hubs”, said Tsukamoto. There are also some new germinating hubs in the area and merger or rearrangement of hubs may occur in the future as they develop further.

(Japan Bioindustry Association)

GTB as a Promising Global Biocommunity

Tsukamoto also emphasized that the Tokyo-Yokohama area has immense potential in becoming a global biotechnology hub for being a region condensed with academia and industries. In terms of patent applications and scientific publications, the Tokyo-Yokohama area was ranked first among the top 100 science and technology clusters in 2020. When comparing the number of bio-related drug pipelines in development, the Tokyo area was ranked second among 12 global biocommunites as of the end of 2021. “Those data showed that the Tokyo area is an attractive area for collaboration and investment.” said Tsukamoto.

Together with Biocommunity Kansai (BiocK), another new government-certified global biocommunity, GTB serves as the core of the organic network linking various regional biocommunities in Japan, activating distinctive bio-industries throughout the country and promote the accumulation of excellent human resources and investment from Japan and abroad while also connecting with overseas bioclusters. 

Regarding the market expansion, GTB aims that the total annual sales of the bio-related companies in the Tokyo area will grow from $940 billion in 2020 to $1340 billion in 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 3.6%. For the investment in biotech startups, it is expected that the amount will increase from $0.27 billion in 2020 (with the estimated foreign investment of $18-27 million) to $3.2 billion in 2030 (with the estimated foreign investment of $1.6 billion). In terms of research collaborations, it is hoped that 5 to 10 new large collaborative research projects will be adopted every year by 2030.

BioJapan 2022

Furthermore, GTB will also host domestic and international events to bring together the global biopharma industry to explore opportunities in the Japanese biotech market. Tsukamoto particularly promoted BioJapan 2022 to be held in Yokohama this October. As for GTB infrastructure, most Japanese biocommunity members will join this event. He also expressed his hope that the participating companies will be able to find business partners and new opportunities for investment.

Yoshiaki Tsukamoto, Executive Director of JBA and Thomas Huang, CEO of GeneOnline at the 2022 BIO International Convention (BIO2022) Japan Pavilion.
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