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Case study - CTIBIOTECH

Introduction

CTIBIOTECH is a French company specializing in repurposing human tissue discarded by hospitals for research, drug and cosmetic testing, and future therapies. The founders of CTIBIOTECH were pioneers in creating artificial human tissue from adult stem cells, including liver-like and brain-like cells. Today, the French-based company provides support to hospitals, universities, and other companies in their research and development programs, contributing to the advancement of modern healthcare.

An example of this contribution is the company’s ability to print skin. By utilizing a small donation of human skin typically discarded during surgery, skin cells are grown and then used to 3D bioprint new skin. This innovative approach enables the testing of drugs, cosmetics, and vaccines.

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Why Japan?

Japan boasts a rich history in human disease research and development. Consequently, CTIBIOTECH since its inception identified Japan as a key market and sought opportunities with Japanese companies and research institutes. The advanced scientific landscape coupled with the demand for human tissue in R&D aligned closely with CTIBIOTECH’s goals.

Professor Colin McGuckin, the founder, visited Japan when he was still a student. CTIBIOTECH started to establish contacts with Japanese companies early on, receiving multiple requests for collaboration. Building upon these early connections, the company established fruitful relationships with biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics companies in Japan. Geographically speaking, the contacts that were established were all located in big cities. It was important for CTIBIOTECH to expand further.

CTIBIOTECH stands out in the Japanese marketplace due to its specialization in the reuse of human tissue, a niche subsector that few Japanese companies focus on. This unique offering has enabled CTIBIOTECH to provide valuable contributions to the Japanese market. Additionally, the strong relationship between France and Japan has been beneficial, especially in the realm of cosmetics testing. France's global leadership in cosmetics and Japan's position as the leading nation in Asia in this sector, create synergies that support collaboration between the two countries.

CTIBIOTECH has achieved notable success in expanding its business in Japan, even amidst the challenges posed by the COVID era. Currently, the company has established relationships with four Japanese distributors for its products and research innovations. CTIBIOTECH has collaborated with over 30 Japanese companies, including prominent names such as Daiichi Sankyo, Pola, KOSE, NIKKOL, KANEKA, Mandom, and Shiseido. Moreover, due to the substantial workload, CTIBIOTECH now accommodates three Japanese researchers from the KOSE cosmetics corporation at its facility in Lyon. The company frequently hosts visits from Japanese researchers in Lyon to showcase its technologies and foster relationship-building efforts.

EU-Japan Centre Support

In 2018 CTIBIOTECH attended the Biotech mission managed by the EU-Japan Centre, providing the company with exposure to new regions and opportunities in Japan. The availability of language support, and the expertise in Japanese landscapes, both geographically and industrially, have proven invaluable. Understanding relationships, business protocols, and legal matters can be challenging without such guidance.

Challenges and difficulties

Navigating language and regulatory challenges is always a significant hurdle for companies like CTIBIOTECH. The guidance provided by organizations such as the EU-Japan Centre, Business France, and CTIBIOTECH’s Japanese partners has been crucial for their development in Japan.

Future expectations

The company is considering the feasibility of establishing a more permanent presence in Japan and is currently strategizing its potential location and setup. Exploring a joint venture with a Japanese counterpart could enhance CTIBIOTECH's operations in Japan. Dr. Nico FORRAZ, CEO of CTIBIOTECH, visited once more Japan in March 2024 as part of a French government delegation. The delegation included the President of the Region Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes and other dignitaries, aiming to strengthen ties between this region of France and Japan.

Advice to companies that want to break into the Japanese market

The essential strategy for success in the Japanese market is to visit your local partners regularly. Annual visits and face-to-face meetings are crucial for building and nurturing business relationships. While developing these connections takes time, investing effort into visiting clients and potential partners directly can significantly aid the process. Moreover, immersing oneself in the Japanese culture and getting to know people in their own environment can be a rewarding experience that fosters deeper understanding and stronger connections.

 

Article based on an interview with Professor Colin McGuckin, founder of CTIOBIOTECH. participant to the Centre's 2018 biotech business support mission.

Published on March 2024.

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