A recent article in the magazine Nikkei Biotech looks at the situation of Japanese start-ups in bio and healthcare.
The funding environment for startups in Japan is less mature than in Europe and the United States, and the amounts raised per funding round are generally small.
Recently, however, some Japanese bio/healthcare startups have raised 3 or 4 billion yen in Series C, and with the government’s additional support measures, the fundraising environment is improving.
Japan’s first “unicorn” in this field, Spiber, has already raised 100,9 Mrd. Jp¥ (~631 million €).
Spiber develops materials using proteins produced by microbial fermentation. The company attracted a lot of investment due to its easy-to-understand keyword, “spider fiber,” and its low environmental impact. The company has a strong link to fashion (“biocouture”) using engineered protein material (“biosmocking”). The company has made steady progress in its business, including the construction and start-up of a plant in Thailand for the commercial production of structural proteins used in fibers.
Inovacel, the second-ranked company, is engaged in the development of cellular medicine for fecal and urinary incontinence. Inovacell has raised 14.0 billion JP¥ (~88 million €).
Originally an Austrian startup (Innovacell Biotechnologie), the company established Innovacell in Japan in 2021, in response to Japan’s good environment for regenerative medicine products, and the Japanese company has now become the parent company. Inovacel is developing autologous skeletal muscle-derived cells and other cells as cellular medicines, with phase III trials underway in Europe and Japan, and aims to file for approval in the first half of 2027.
Like Spiber, third-placed CureApp is another company that often appears in the media. It has raised approximately 13.4 billion JP¥ (~84 million €).
It develops software as medical devices (SaMD) and is currently marketing in Japan the approved CureApp SC Nicotine Dependence Treatment App and CO Checker, a therapeutic app for nicotine-dependent patients, and the CureApp HT Hypertension Treatment Aid App for hypertension. The company also provides a platform for medical institutions to operate the apps so that the administrative work involved in prescribing the apps is not complicated, and is committed to promoting the use of the apps.