Case study - Selvita


Selvita is a polish CRO (Contract Research Organisation) driven by a clear purpose: to bridge the gap between early drug discovery and the clinical stage of drug development by providing state of the art scientific support. Selvita provides comprehensive solutions including Medicinal Chemistry, in silico drug design, in vitro pharmacology,  in Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Excretion (ADME), Drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK), structural biology, in vivo models and translational studies using patient samples.

Noteworthy is the fact that if patentable new molecular compounds are identified, the EU-based company does not hold onto intellectual property (IP); instead, these rights are transferred to their customers. 

Founded in 2007 as a small start-up in Poland, it has  rapidly grown over the years to a global organisation, employing over 900  highly motivated specialists at six sites in four countries.  




Why Japan? 

Conducting operations across Europe, the US, and the UK, Selvita recognised the importance of establishing collaborations with the pharmaceutical companies orginating from the  Japanese market. The rationale behind this decision lies in the highly promising landscape of the pharmaceutical industry in Japan which is  passionately engaged in the discovery of new, innovative drugs, and thus could  significantly benefit   from sophisticated scientific support.  Cultivating its “beginner’s mind” while striving for a constant improvement Selvita was also amazed by Japanese business culture which it found surprisingly familiar and inspiring.

Selvita had engaged with the Japanese market back in 2014. The first collaboration was concluded a year later, in 2015. 

EU-Japan Centre Support 

In 2018, the company was selected to participate in the Biotech mission, a programme managed by the EU-Japan Centre. The business mission revolved around the participation at BioJapan Expo, providing the opportunity to selected European companies to showcase their products/technology at a common booth under the EU flag.  

Attending this leading biotech fair enabled the company to establish contacts in the challenging yet promising Japanese market and initiate several discussions, some of which resulted in successful collaborations. 

Challenges and difficulties 

Venturing into the Japanese market involves a substantial time commitment, which needs to be followed by passion and endurance, as building a strong relationship based on trust between partners can take over several months or years. Only mutual long term commitment can make all of this effort worth it, and there are probably no more trustworthy partners then Japanese..

Nevertheless there are three main challenges which each European company will most likely face.. Cultural differences have to be taken into account both during the initial contact, as well as during the scientific work itself, to avoid miscommunications and to better understand the needs and expectations of Japanese partners. Another important factor to consider is having a fluent Japanese speaker on the team, who can navigate the intricacies of the language to provide guidelines regarding the expectations of your business partners, which may not always be directly communicated. Finally, initiating the contact  and understanding whom to reach out to and how to organize the meetings with the proper people from the companies that present a potential for collaboration can also be a significant difficulty. One has also to be aware of the long timelines of discussions and have to be patient and proceed with the same pace of the discussions as your  partners, in order to not break the harmony of the communication which is crucial to be seen as a trustworthy partner.

One of the most important advice for companies trying to successfully establish collaborations on the Japanese market  is to find a specialized agent based in Japan, who can be a cultural guide as that is extremely important on the Japanese market. For instance, in 2018, Selvita did not have a sales representative in Japan, and  lacked a fluent Japanese-speaking partner, making communication difficult and the overall approach to the market more challenging. That changed after 2018, as Selvita has established a team of 3 people fluently speaking Japanese, led by a Tokyo-based, highly skilled Japanese representative,  which was key in establishing new, successful collaborations.

Future expectations 

The company envisions a sustained presence on the Japanese market for many more years to come and to continue its expansions, forging new collaborations supporting the drug discovery of innovative drugs in Japan, while constantly improving its services and learning. 

Text based on an interview with Mr. Bogusz Ostrowski, Business Development Director, Drug Discovery, Selvita. Participant in the 2018 Biotech mission.

Published on March 2024.

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