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A message for Japan: ‘Ganbare’
Although ddn's news coverage spans the global drug discovery industry, we don't often have occasion to report on Asia-based companies, as they rarely pursue large-figure mergers and acquisitions. This all changed this month, as we note in one of our cover stories that Japanese pharmas are increasingly turning to M&As to bolster anemic drug pipelines—and as a result, the opportunity arose to report on several Japan-based firms.
But days after we dug into our stories about Kyowa Hakko Kirin Co. Ltd., Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd. and Fujifilm Corp., the unthinkable happened: On March 11, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Japan, triggering a tsunami that claimed thousands of lives and caused extensive damage across the northern regions of the country.
We had difficulty arranging interviews last year, when the Iceland volcano eruption stranded many companies for weeks in their spring conference travels, but this experience was different. This was catastrophic. This was dire.
With Japan struggling to deal with unimaginable loss and battling aftershocks and power outages, it was clear to us that interviews with these companies were not likely to happen—and our communication with them focused on concern for their safety and health.
"Please understand our present situation," said Hidenori Ishii, a spokesman for Kyowa Hakko, via e-mail. "We cannot arrange an interview." Ishii confirmed that Kyowa Hakko's employees were safe, and that the company's operations were unaffected, but early in the month, many other Japanese companies reported that some of their employees were missing. Daiichi Sankyo reported employee injuries and damage to some of its manufacturing plants.
These events have interfered with these companies' ability to discuss their recent deals and plans for the future. Business in Japan has been severely disrupted. The stock market in Japan is on shaky ground.
But given the gravity of this catastrophe, reporting this seems almost hollow when the Japanese people are taking their first steps toward the leviathan effort of rebuilding much of their country. The scenes out of Japan are horrifying: Walls of ocean water destroying whole cities and pulverizing homes, hospitals and businesses; Japanese citizens searching in vain for their lost loved ones; smoke rising from crippled nuclear plants. It's one of the worst natural disasters to affect mankind in centuries.
Then, some good news came: The American and European companies that have partnered with these Japanese firms, or do business in Japan, confirmed to us that their colleagues abroad were safe and sound, and their recent dealings with them should not be affected.
Kimberley Sirk, who reports this month on Fujifilm's acquisition of the Merck BioManufacturing Network, found out through Fujifilm's New York office that the corporation's Tokyo office was open and operational. Lori Lesko, who reports on Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.'s sale of its Athena Diagnostics and Lancaster Laboratories businesses, shares that Thermo Fisher Scientific was worried about its Japanese operations, but none of the company's 400 employees in Japan were hurt or injured. All were located in facilities out of harm's way in southern Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and smaller cities when the first tremor struck.
These concerns were not lost on the pharma and biotech industries, as many of them stepped up to extend a helping hand in the way of charitable donations and relief supplies. You can read about many of these commendable efforts in a blog post by our associate editor, Kelsey Kaustinen, at www.drugdiscoverynews.com/blog/. We were quite intrigued by Fujifilm's reaction to the disaster. As Sirk reports, the company not only donated several diagnostic ultrasound systems and masks for dust and virus protection, it also switched off its outdoor advertising and refrained from using non-urgent electricity use in an effort to conserve power.
Our editorial team did our best to convey our concern and support for these companies as well as the Japanese people, and our contacts in Japan kindly responded with great appreciation: "Thank you for the warm message. We wish to express our gratitude for the support from all over the world," Ishii wrote via e-mail.
Ever a source of cultural inspiration, the Japanese have a saying 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 of encouragement among the Japanese people. While words are often inadequate in times like these, we at ddn would like to extend our warmest wishes to the Japanese companies we cover, the companies around the world who do business there and the Japanese people as a whole. Ganbare, Japan. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.