Ryuji Yamamura says developments in medical care will lead to enormous growth for his company, which is a leading developer of chromatography technologies that are being used in the treatment of cancer, amongst others.
Throughout the years, Japan has been recognised for its incredible innovative potential. How do you explain this commitment to creation?
From a historical point of view, Japan has had no other option but to innovate, and this still applies today. As a developed economy, Japan has enjoyed accumulated wealth, leading to higher production costs. If we were to compete with Chinese and Korean manufacturers on similar products, we would have to match their prices. However, that is impossible. Japan cannot win based on cost reduction. To survive, we must create new technologies and products unique to the world. The constant pursuit of innovation is our only way forward.
Can you tell us more about the history of chromatography and of YMC?
The technologies of chromatography came from advances in the field of analytical equipment. These devices were extremely expensive and impossible to utilise for large scale purposes. YMC Co., Ltd. was born with the mission to make chromatography accessible for industrial refinement and purification processes. Through price competitiveness, we successfully transformed these costly scientific devices into affordable ones. In other words, we pioneered the commercialisation of chromatographic techniques. To do so, we designed large scale chromatographic equipment applicable to industrial usage. For material separation for example, we invented the first large-scale column.
The international chromatography industry is valued at 7.8 billion USD, and forecasted to grow at a 4% CAGR to reach 11 billion USD by 2022.
The 7.8 billion you speak of includes related analytical equipment. For the industrial application of chromatography, we forecast high and drastic growth. Since new-era pharmaceutical technologies are moving from small molecular compounds to larger ones, chromatography is becoming a necessity. For example, one of Japan’s leading pharmaceutical companies recently collaborated with an overseas medical enterprise to jointly develop a new cancer treatment. To successfully model this new treatment, they employed our products. While this new cancer treatment solution is expensive – a single injection can cost up to $4000 – patient recovery has been significantly high. The incredible potential of new pharmaceutical techniques will lead to the exponential growth, and necessity, of Chromatography.
At YMC, we expect annual business growth to jump by 15 to 20% annually. To prepare for such drastic growth, we have heavily invested in manufacturing facilities. Currently, our main manufacturing plant is located in Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture. However, we have already started introducing a new cite which is 1.5 times bigger than the current one, in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture. This new facility will begin operations in 2019.
In 1985, you expanded to the USA, before opening branches in Europe, Korea, China, Taiwan and India. Can you run us through the international expansion of YMC Co., Ltd.?
Since Japanese pharmaceutical companies are smaller in scale, we expanded to America in order to collaborate with a large American organisation. At the time, insulin was mainly produced in America. Before breakthrough advances in bio-technologies, insulin was developed from pig pancreas. As research intensified, organisations in America and Europe began producing insulin from E-coli bacteria. This breakthrough development can be considered as the first step of biopharmaceutical, and it was the starting point to YMC’s American expansion. Our objective was to collaborate with American companies to provide support for their E-coli-based insulin manufacturing.
Since the analytic equipment market is limited in size, we had to expand by ourselves. In the past, manufacturers relied on trading companies to export. Since trading companies do not handle small volume niche markets, we had to expand by ourselves. We built our international network gradually and today, we are proud to say that we cover the world. By expanding independently, we are able to offer optimal after-sales services. If we relied on trading companies, we would not be able to provide these added-values. The quality of our after-sales activities is recognised and trusted by our clients, and it has grown into a symbol of our success.
We originally started by selling and supporting “columns” for chromatography. Today, our product portfolio has evolved and we export a package of equipment. Such as broader range of analytical and preparative columns, bulk packings, preparative LC systems, those for bio-separation and contract purification services . By attentively listening to the needs of each of our customers, we are able to customise our products to cater for the needs of each individual client. Our dedication to customisation is a great competitive advantage of YMC, for competition cannot copy us. Our service is unique and personalised by essence.
To attract customers, we approach them by comparing the results of conventional analytic columns with our solutions. This allows us to understand the needs of our clients. Since each customer has different requirements, YMC offers consulting services to research the column that best fits the application at hand.
Furthermore, we use the network of the international scientific society to spread knowledge about our solutions. I regularly share scientific papers and conduct presentations on Chromatography to keep the international scientific community informed.
What applications show the highest potential for chromatography?
Although our techniques are applicable to various fields, the cost of our products limits our scope of operations. Therefore, we currently target innovative pharmaceuticals such as cancer research, new-era antibodies and large molecular compounds. To develop our business, we make significant efforts on nurturing the relationship with our trusted partners, along with a variety of venture companies. In the future, and as we will develop further cost-effective solutions, we will expand our business field.
Can you tell us more about your approach to R&D?
As far as advanced R&D is concerned, the EU and the USA are the research leaders. However, most of factories are shifting to India. Since many CMOs (contract manufacturing organisation) are based in India, we pay particular attention to that region. Our new priority for R&D is related to medium-size molecular peptides. Chromatography is essential for peptide-based pharmaceutical development, and many companies are currently focusing on that area.
How do you promote your products to your clients?
Our core strategy is to introduce new products to our former clients. Our teams visit our customers on a daily basis to introduce and present the advantages and characteristics of our new solutions. Furthermore, the close relationship we nurture with our partners allows us to remain on top of market trends.
Your industry is subject to many acquisitions. What developments are we to expect from YMC in the near future?
We have been receiving many acquisition offers and most investors require a 51% stake to invest. As we wish to remain independent and keep an equal partnership with multiple partners, we have declined these offers. Furthermore, I envision YMC to become a public company in the near future. We want to do an IPO and enter the Tokyo Stock Exchange in more or less five years. The incredible growth potential of our company represents an interesting opportunity for investors.