24 Jul 2013, Saptarshi Chaudhuri in Tokyo, Japan, BioSpectrum
The 7th in-Pharma Japan and 26th Interphex Japan, both of which were held concurrently at Tokyo Big Sight, Japan, from July 10-12, 2013, concluded with much success and grandeur. The event was focused on covering the whole process of pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing and featured technical conferences and exhibitions associated with all kinds of life science equipments, lab devices, contract services, packaging and other industry solutions.
Both in-Pharma Japan and Interphex Japan have established themselves as one of the most significant business platform where the whole Japanese pharmaceutical industry gets together and this was evident from the number of participants who took part in the joint event. While the total number of visitors were 32, 762 (including 29,358 on-site registrants, 3,378 VIP registrants and 26 special guests), the number of individuals who attended the seminars over the three days were 2,956. Moreover, a total of 196 press registrants were also seen participating in the mega event.
The exhibition, which was spread across six (East) halls and 51,380 square meters at Tokyo Big Sight convention center, showcased 970 exhibitors located in different strategic zones like the Materials Process Zone, Supplies and Transfer Zone, BioPharma Zone, Sterilizing Equipment and Clean Room Zone, Plant Engineering Zone, Water Production and Control Zone, Laboratory Measurement and Analysis Equipment Zone, Logistics Zone, IT Solutions Zone Contract Services Zone, and Process Inspection and Testing Equipment Zone.
The keynote address, which was delivered during the inauguration of the event, emphasized on how life science firms in Japan are venturing in the quest to expand to emerging markets of China, India, Brazil and Russia (BRIC) among other nations despite stifled innovation in the ‘land of the rising sun'. However, the environment in the technical sessions and at the exhibition was that of "lets innovate help Japanese life sciences get out of its stifled phase."
The keynote was delivered by Dr Taro Iwamoto, president and representative director, Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Japan; Mr Tony Alvarez, representative director and president, MSD (Merck Sharpe Dohme) KK and Mr Fumiyoshi Sakai, director, equity research, equities, Credit Suisse Securities, Japan. All three speakers concurred on the observation that in today's world, growth and innovation go hand in hand.
How to get Japan out of its 'stifled innovation' mode?
Dr Iwamoto said that in order to innovate and to grow, a company should create business leaders, who have experience and can deal with the diverse aspects of business and in diverse regions of the world. Dr Iwamoto, who formerly faced a tough time working with US firm Syntex due to his English language barrier, said that he follows the success mantra put forward by best selling author Mr Jack Welsh - being full of Energy, Energize his team mates, Being on the Edge all the time in terms of idea generation, Execute his protocols and work with Passion.
He further added that leaders should not only "act" on protocols but also "produce" the best methodologies. He said that the best way to innovate is to change oneself and create something new. "Innovation is not development of technology, it is what you can develop in order to meet the demands of your customer," said Dr Iwamoto.
While speaking about innovation, Mr Alvarez, said that providing access to innovation was equally important. He said, "What is the use of producing the best vaccine, if people don't have access to it." While speaking to BioSpectrum Asia, Mr Alvarez also said, "The life science industry behaves differently depending on which region of the world you are located in. The definition of innovation keeps changing from one country to another." He also said that innovation is only as good as the customers, who are willing to pay for it.
Mr Sakai, who wore the hat of a neutral industry analyst, said that for large firms to succeed in today's stiff competition, one needs to venture into markets where the economic growth is far higher than the healthcare expenditure. He said, "If healthcare costs far outrun the rate at which the economy of a country is growing, it would lead to a crash in the system." He suggested that its time for Japanese firms to leave the island nation and venture into more potential markets like that of China and India. He also mentioned that hindrances such as the application of additional three percent consumption tax on drugs from April 2014, influx of generics, premium on Japan's new drug pricing policy and substantial deductions in operating profits will only make the prevalent scenario worse for the pharma industry in Japan.
The problems ahead
Although the high levels of energy, enthusiasm and display of technology at the mega event portrayed that the Japanese are very serious about fueling innovation in their life science industry, the fact that it is facing several hindrances from the point of view of policy and will face many such challenges in the near future is certainly a cause of concern.
Mr Alvarez told BioSpectrum that, "R&D productivity is getting worse and is reduced by half every nine years. Innovation has become an expensive and complicated business." Mr Alvarez highlighted that regulatory bodies across the world are appending to the pain by making it difficult for life science companies to bring their drugs to the market. He said that the regulatory bodies, including the US FDA, are purposely placing hurdles in the path of drug discovery and commercialization processes in order to control the cost of drugs by controlling their access in the market.
Mr Alvarez pointed out that while companies have several market opportunities in the form of ageing population, globalization and advances in technology, the attitude of "control cost by controlling access" shown by regulatory bodies will eventually lead to stifled innovation.
Furthermore, Mr Sakai highlighted that the Japanese pharma market would face some major hindrances in the future, starting from late 2013. Japan is going to levy an additional three percent consumption tax on all its medicines. The first phase of this increase would be effective April 2014 and the second from October 2015. Also, other factors like increase in the premium on new drug pricing and slash in the long-listed product pricing will only lead to a further decline in operating profits for the Japanese pharma market.
(The author was in Tokyo on the invitation of Reed Exhibitions, Japan, the organizers of the 7th in-Pharma Japan and 26th Interphex Japan)