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  • Incubate Coalition Japan

INCUBATE X JAPAN 2023 – Nikkei Forum: Incubating Innovation in the Life Science Ecosystem

April 12, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan

On April 12th, Incubate, in partnership with Japanese media company Nikkei, convened a forum in Tokyo, Japan titled “Incubating Innovation in the Life Science Ecosystem.” The event featured five leading venture capitalists (VCs) from Germany, the United States, and Israel, and was attended by 120 guests from across the globe. The forum provided a platform to discuss how Japan can strengthen its early-stage life science ecosystem and enhance its role as a global powerhouse for innovation. The program started with a private stakeholders’ luncheon featuring Mr. Kazumi Nishikawa from the Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry (METI), followed by a two hour long public symposium, and an evening reception. Incubate and the VCs held a series of private meetings on April 13th.

The audience included 117 individuals, 76 of those who live locally in the greater Tokyo area, and 46 who were international. The vast majority of attendees identified themselves as working in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic sectors and 17% of the attendees are in managerial or leadership level roles. In a follow-up survey administered by Nikkei to event attendees, 95% of respondents said they were satisfied with the event, with 62% sharing that they were very satisfied. Members of the National Diet, as well as staffers and government officials from the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Wellness, as well as METI attended.


Public Symposium

Incubate is partnering with the Nikkei for an afternoon symposium on April 12, 2023, at the Imperial Hotel followed by a reception. The event will feature multiple panels and keynote speakers for a thorough discussion on the perspective of European and American investors.

The audience will consist of between 50 – 100 Japanese elected officials, senior advisors, officials from key government ministries, think tanks, the patient advocacy community, and Japanese and global life science investors.

This event will be open to the media, and we are working towards and anticipate media coverage from several of Japan’s most prominent news outlets.

Participating Venture Capital Organizations

Early-stage life science organizations have grown around the world in the last five years, a trend which has facilitated private risk capital increasing role as a contributor to discussions of healthcare policy, economic development, and entrepreneurship. Two such examples:

  • Incubate (USA)

  • Life Sciences Acceleration Alliance (EU)

Both groups have provided regular and timely engagement from life science venture capitalists to a wide range of stakeholders in North America and Europe on:

  • The essential role of risk-on capital in more open life science innovation systems to meet waiting patient needs

  • Importance of risk capital for successful entrepreneurial environment

  • High failure rate (9 out of 10 investments will fail)

  • Need to embrace learnings from failures as building blocks for future successes

  • Importance of human resources liquidity

  • Willingness to scale investments (each funding in the hundreds of millions of USD)

  • Competition for capital across borders and relentless demand for efficient return

  • Increasingly interdependent and integrated early-stage innovation with larger manufacturers’ development platforms


Symposium speakers are listed below in the order in which they participated in the program.

“The State of Japanese Life Sciences”

This portion of the event aimed to portray the different actors needed to create a functional and thriving life science ecosystem. Speakers represented and spoke to the following perspectives: investment, research, private sector, founder, government, and start-up.

  • Go Yamamoto, Director, Venture Support Strategy Office, Policy Planning Division for Pharmaceutical Industry Promotion and Medical Information Management, Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, Japan

  • Tomoyoshi Koyanagi, Program-Specific Professor, Director of Business Development Office, Institute for Advancement of Clinical and Translational Science (iACT), Kyoto University Hospital

  • Atsushi Nagahisa, President, DNA Partners LLC

  • Toshio Fujimoto, Chief Executive Officer, iPark Institute Hiroki Ashida, Vice President, Eight Roads Ventures

  • Osamu Nagayama, Honorary Chairman, Chugai Pharmaceutical

“More than Money: The Investor’s Vantage Point”

Moderated by Nikkei, this panel centered around the VCs discussing their past challenges in different global markets, recommendations for Japan, their specific role in supporting biotech start-ups, and translating research from the universities into data for private companies.

  • Christine Brennan, Managing Director, Vertex Ventures HC Johannes Fruehauf, Co-Founder of LabCentral, General Partner of Mission BioCapital Michal Silverberg, Managing Director, Novartis Venture Fund

  • Sascha Berger, Partner, TVM Capital

“The Opportunity of Today and Tomorrow”

An in-depth conversation moderated by John Stanford, Executive Director of Incubate with Dr. Gaurav Gupta, Managing Partner, J.P. Morgan Life Sciences Private Capital, and Steve Ubl, President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Christine Brennan

Christine has over 15 years in the life-science industry including business development, corporate strategy and venture investing. She is currently Managing Director at Vertex Ventures HC (VVHC) where she is board director for Boundless Bio and Redona Therapeutics as well as board observer for Epirium Bio and Matchpoint Therapeutics. Prior to VVHC, she was a Partner at MRL Ventures Fund from 2017-2021 where she was on the boards of Alector, Inc. [NASDAQ:ALEC], Entrada Therapeutics [NASDAQ:TRDA], Tallac Therapeutics and Therini Bio. She was also an observer on the boards of Adagio [NASDAQ:ADGI], LifeMine Therapeutics, PAQ Therapeutics and Translate Bio [NASDAQ:TBIO]. Prior to MRL Ventures Fund, she was Principal at the Novartis Venture Fund from 2013-2017 where she was on the board of Altimmune [NASDAQ:ALT] and an observer on the boards of a number of companies including ROX Medical, lnnocrin Pharmaceuticals, Viamet Pharmaceuticals and Quartet Medicine. Prior to Novartis Venture Fund, she was Chief Business Officer at Vitae Pharmaceuticals from 2010-2013. She also held positions in business development and marketing at small and mid-size biopharmaceutical companies. Christine received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Dartmouth Medical School and was post-doctoral fellow in developmental neurobiology at the National Institutes of Health.

Johannes Fruehauf

With his background as a physician working in diverse health systems, coupled with 20+ years as a serial biotech entrepreneur, Dr. Fruehauf has dedicated much of his professional endeavors to supporting life science entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Dr. Fruehauf is currently General Partner and co-founder of Mission BioCapital (MBC). In his role at MBC, Johannes sources, diligences, and leads new life-science investment transactions and represents the fund on the board of a number of MBC portfolio companies.

He is also the Founder and President of LabCentral and BioLabs, the largest provider of laboratory co-working space for startups nationwide, currently serving over 385+ startups in 15 cities. Over the past three years, the companies started within this network secured over 25% of all Seed and Series A venture capital invested in life sciences in the US. LabCentral and BioLabs were also the recipient of the prestigious Prix Galien Award in 2022 for the best biotech startup launchpads in the “Incubators, Accelerators and Equity” category.

Johannes studied medicine in Germany and France, while also conducting field work in Africa (Zimbabwe and Guinea). Thereafter, he practiced medicine (internal medicine and OB/Gyn) for several years in Germany before coming to Boston for a post-doc at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. Johannes graduated from University of Frankfurt and received his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg. He is also the author of over 30 peer reviewed publications and is named inventor on 9 issued patents on drug delivery and RNAi-based therapeutics.

Michal Silverberg

Michal Silverberg is a Managing Director at the Novartis Venture Fund in Cambridge, MA, USA. Prior to joining NVF, she was a Senior Partner at Takeda Ventures and, before that, worked at Novo Nordisk in roles of increasing responsibility including as Senior Director Business Development and New Product Commercialization, serving as a member of the BioPharm leadership team. Since 1998, Michal has held positions in various sectors of the life science industry including in the Office of the Chief Scientist of Israel (The Incubator program), venture capital (Ofer Brothers Hi Tech) and global pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including various positions at MGVS, an Israeli biotech company and at OSI Pharmaceuticals in a business development role. She received her B.A. in Economics and Business Management from Haifa University, her M.B.A from Tel-Aviv University in Israel and her Master’s degree in Biotechnology from Columbia University in New York.

Sascha Berger

Dr. Sascha Berger is a Partner at TVM Capital, based in Munich, Germany. TVM Capital is one of the transatlantic Life Science Venture Capital pioneers, investing with teams in Europe and North America. Sascha joined TVM Capital in 2016, helped to raise the current $480M fund, and works closely with entrepreneurs and founders to advance promising pharmaceutical assets, medtech, diagnostic, and digital health technologies to the next value inflection points. Sascha is a passionate VC, a Boston Consulting Group alumnus, and has an academic background in chemistry and finance.

John Stanford

John Stanford is the Executive Director of Incubate, a coalition of venture capital organizations who represent the patient, investment, and corporate communities. In this role he is responsible for communicating priorities that encourage life science innovators to grow in the US, and strengthening intellectual property provisions in the US and globally. John has been recognized in the Congressional Record and in state legislatures for his advocacy and communication efforts. He comments regularly on health and policy issues, most recently in the Wall Street Journal, STAT, CNBC, the Washington Post and the International Business Times. John is also the host of the new Making Medicine podcast, which features leading investors, biotech CEOs and policymakers to discuss the early-stage ecosystem. He most recently presented at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2023, speaking on multiple panels about the state of drug pricing policy and the IRA. John is a Denver, CO native, and graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Government and has an M. Ed. In Secondary Education from Arizona State University.

Stephen J. Ubl

Stephen J. Ubl is president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents America’s leading biopharmaceutical research companies. Mr. Ubl leads PhRMA’s work preserving and strengthening a health care and economic environment that encourages medical innovation, new drug discovery, and access to life-saving medicines. “If anyone can find areas of agreement with the critics, or at least work productively with them, it may be Mr. Ubl,” the New York Times wrote in February 2016. “He is more conversant with the intricacies of health policy, and more adept at the politics.” He is routinely recognized as one of Washington’s most effective advocates, and, in 2019, was named one of Business Insider’s “DC Healthcare Power Players.” He is consistently named to Modern Healthcare’s “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” list and is identified as a top health influencer by Medical Marketing & Media and PR Week magazines.

Keiichi Murayama

Keiichi Murayama formerly served as the U.S. Silicon Valley bureau chief of Nikkei Inc., and was a senior staff writer and an editorial writer of Nikkei. After earning his undergraduate degree at Tohoku University in 1992, he joined the Business News Department of Nikkei in Tokyo as a staff writer. He covered technology, medical, automotive, and financial news. After he joined the Program on US-Japan Relations at Harvard University, he went on to oversee the U.S. Silicon Valley Bureau for a few years. He has authored numerous publications including “Rise and Fall of the IT Empire – Steve Jobs Revolution” and “STARTUP – The Reality of Entrepreneurs”.

Atsushi Nagahisa

Atsushi Nagahisa, PhD is President and CEO of DNA Partners, LLC. He has over 35 years of experience in drug discovery, development and management. Nagahisa was previously Vice President of Pfizer Global Research and Development, Director of Pfizer Nagoya Laboratories, and Senior Vice President for R&D of Pfizer Japan. He raised $111 million to found RaQualia, Inc. in 2008, Pfizer’s first organic spinoff. He was President and CEO of RaQualia from its formation to 2012 and led its successful IPO in 2011 on the JASDAQ. Nagahisa headed laboratories in Pfizer that discovered Cerenia and Galliprant. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 publications in scientific journals. In 2011, Pharmaceutical Executive named him one of the 30 most impactful individuals in the biopharmaceutical sector over the 30-year history of the magazine.

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