UK Companies Impressive at BioJapan 2016

Life Sciences is a Priority Sector for Both Japan and the UK

The Life Sciences team at DIT Japan organised a UK pavilion over three days at the BioJapan exhibition in October 2016.

Thirteen companies and two government organisations came out to attend the trade mission in Yokohama.

Companies had the chance to present their technology and services to attendees, including key players and decision-makers from Japanese pharmaceutical companies.

Axol Bioscience Ltd.

Dr Yichen Shi, CEO of Cambridge-based Axol Bioscience Ltd., spoke of the young biotech’s aim to become “the Amazon of human cell supply.”

Their 4 business areas include providing the best primary human cells, iPS cell generation, genetic editing and iPS cell differentiation,

7 reasons to work with Axol:

1. Technical capability
2. Ever-expanding product range
3. Wide range of cell culture product
4. Strong customer support
5. Fast delivery speed – 3-day delivery to Japan at this time, but in the future a delivery partner will bring that time down to 1 day.
6. Committed to the Japanese market, visiting Japan quarterly
7. One-stop-shop for human cell supply

Axol Bioscience has identified a demand for their products globally and in Japan. “People are looking for human cells,” says Dr. Shi.

The company is determined to make its mark in Japan, and has opted for localisation of materials adapted to the Japanese market. This has involved producing brochures and press releases in Japanese and creating a cute mascot just for their business in Japan.


Dr Filipa Soares of DefiniGEN Ltd. introduced the company’s core technology and products.

Based in Cambridge, DefiniGEN’s mission is to be a leading global stem cell provider. The company provides a range of products, including hepatocyte cell products, pancreatic cell products, custom cell development, and profiling services for a range of diseases.

“Our business in Japan has progressed and has been growing in 2016,” said Dr. Soares. “We now have distributors in Japan and have already sent cells here.”

Trends in the pharmaceutical and regenerative medicine sector in Japan include drug screening and safety, and research and development in the area of intestinal disease and medicine.

For more information on DefiniGEN’s journey to doing business in Japan, take a look at our case study to see how they are leading the way in drug discovery.

Almac Pharmaceutical Services

Almac have been doing business in Japan for two years, and have already opened an office in Tokyo and grown their team to 10 people.

They have worked closely with DIT and specialise in the production of clinical trial material, which involves manufacturing medicines for clinical trials to support pharmaceutical and university research.

Their future plans include expanding their Japan operation and doubling their team here over the next year.

The best business opportunities in Japan for UK pharmaceutical and biotech companies are:

1. The sheer size of the market in Japan.
2. Pharma companies in Japan are looking for opportunities for research and collaboration.
3. Japan companies are looking for experience of European studies.
4. Companies in Japan are looking for support with European regulations.


MedCity is a spin off company from London & Partners, the official promotional company for London.

Established in 2014, it is a collaboration between the Mayor of London and the capital’s three Academic Health Science Centres – Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, King’s Health Partners, and UCL Partners.

Its purpose is to promote and grow the UK’s world-leading life sciences cluster by encouraging investment, entrepreneurship and industry in the sector.

The life sciences sector is one of the UK Government’s priority sectors for the years to come, and as such will see increased investment and a number of opportunities for export and collaboration with pharmaceutical companies overseas.

With an ageing population and a need for research, development and innovation, regenerative medicine is currently trending in Japan, and this looks set to continue well into the future.

Japanese pharmaceutical and medical device companies are increasingly seeking to partner with foreign companies.

Changes in Japanese legislation regarding pharmaceutical products are making it easier for Japanese companies to collaborate in research and development, as well as participate in clinical trials and bringing new drugs to market.

Article and photo by Vanessa Holden, October 2016.