Although ddn's newscoverage spans the global drug discovery industry, we don't often have occasionto report on Asia-based companies, as they rarely pursue large-figure mergersand acquisitions. This all changed this month, as we note in one of our coverstories that Japanese pharmas are increasingly turning to M&As to bolsteranemic drug pipelines—and as a result, the opportunity arose to report onseveral Japan-based firms.
But days after we dug into our stories about Kyowa HakkoKirin Co. Ltd., Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd. and Fujifilm Corp., the unthinkablehappened: On March 11, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Japan, triggering atsunami that claimed thousands of lives and caused extensive damage across thenorthern regions of the country.
We had difficulty arranging interviews last year, when theIceland volcano eruption stranded many companies for weeks in their springconference travels, but this experience was different. This was catastrophic.This was dire.
With Japan struggling to deal with unimaginable loss andbattling aftershocks and power outages, it was clear to us that interviews withthese companies were not likely to happen—and our communication with themfocused on concern for their safety and health.
"Please understand our present situation," said HidenoriIshii, a spokesman for Kyowa Hakko, via e-mail. "We cannot arrange aninterview." Ishii confirmed that Kyowa Hakko's employees were safe, and that thecompany's operations were unaffected, but early in the month, many otherJapanese companies reported that some of their employees were missing. DaiichiSankyo reported employee injuries and damage to some of its manufacturingplants.
These events have interfered with these companies' abilityto discuss their recent deals and plans for the future. Business in Japan hasbeen severely disrupted. The stock market in Japan is on shaky ground.
But given the gravity of this catastrophe, reporting thisseems almost hollow when the Japanese people are taking their first stepstoward the leviathan effort of rebuilding much of their country. The scenes outof Japan are horrifying: Walls of ocean water destroying whole cities andpulverizing homes, hospitals and businesses; Japanese citizens searching invain for their lost loved ones; smoke rising from crippled nuclear plants. It'sone of the worst natural disasters to affect mankind in centuries.
Then, some good news came: The American and Europeancompanies that have partnered with these Japanese firms, or do business inJapan, confirmed to us that their colleagues abroad were safe and sound, andtheir recent dealings with them should not be affected.
Kimberley Sirk, who reports this month on Fujifilm's acquisitionof the Merck BioManufacturing Network, found out through Fujifilm's New Yorkoffice that the corporation's Tokyo office was open and operational. LoriLesko, who reports on Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.'s sale of its AthenaDiagnostics and Lancaster Laboratories businesses, shares that Thermo FisherScientific was worried about its Japanese operations, but none of the company's400 employees in Japan were hurt or injured. All were located in facilities outof harm's way in southern Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and smaller cities when thefirst tremor struck.
These concerns were not lost on the pharma and biotechindustries, as many of them stepped up to extend a helping hand in the way ofcharitable donations and relief supplies. You can read about many of thesecommendable efforts in a blog post by our associate editor, Kelsey Kaustinen,at www.drugdiscoverynews.com/blog/. We were quite intrigued by Fujifilm'sreaction to the disaster. As Sirk reports, the company not only donated severaldiagnostic ultrasound systems and masks for dust and virus protection, it alsoswitched off its outdoor advertising and refrained from using non-urgentelectricity use in an effort to conserve power.
Our editorial team did our best to convey our concern andsupport for these companies as well as the Japanese people, and our contacts inJapan kindly responded with great appreciation: "Thank you for the warmmessage. We wish to express our gratitude for the support from all over theworld," Ishii wrote via e-mail.
Ever a source of cultural inspiration, the Japanese have asaying that has almost become a mantra in the wake of this disaster: "Ganbare."Loosely translated to English as "Hang in there," it's a popular form ofencouragement among the Japanese people. While words are often inadequate intimes like these, we at ddn would liketo extend our warmest wishes to the Japanese companies we cover, the companiesaround the world who do business there and the Japanese people as a whole.Ganbare, Japan. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.