Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals sector in Japan

The Japanese pharmaceutical market is the world’s second largest with sales of over £63 billion in 2012. At 12% of the global market, it is bigger than France and Germany combined.

Market overview

Japan has a number of research based pharmaceutical companies that are operating on a global basis including Takeda, Astellas, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Otsuka, Mitsubishi Tanabe, Chugai, Shionogi, Kyowa Hakko Kirin, Dainippon Sumitomo and so on. These companies are actively looking for collaboration opportunities with new and innovative pharmaceutical companies. The market for biologics such as antibodies, protein based drugs and vaccines, has been increasing and companies including Chugai, Kyowa Hakko Kirin, Takeda, Mitsubishi Tanabe are some of the key players in this market.

Japanese pharmaceutical companies are expanding geographical coverage and therapeutic areas by M&A activities. One such example is Takeda’s acquisition of Millennium and Nikomed.

While some emerging markets are growing at a rapid pace, Japan remains to be an attractive investment market for having a high percentage of new drug sales. Domestic drug production is worth ¥6.9 trillion (approximately £50 billion) in 2011, of which prescription drugs account for 90% of production, while over-the-counter (OTC) drugs account for the remaining 10%.

Japan has one of the world’s fastest ageing populations. As a consequence, its population is facing an increasing number of chronic and long-term diseases.

Key opportunities

  • Demand for joint development, outsourcing of R&D, clinical trials and regulatory affairs in Europe continues to increase.

  • In view of patent expiration of blockbuster drugs and pressures from generics, most opportunities will be in out-licensing of drugs especially for age-related, non-communicable diseases including cancer, cardiovascular and CNS.

  • Increasing development of antibody drugs by Japanese pharmaceutical companies.

  • Drug Delivery Systems (both original and generic manufacturers).

  • Bio-marker development.

  • Services to help faster drug development.

  • Diagnostic companies are also looking for products or unique technologies that can improve diagnostic/detection processes and for the development of companion biomarkers. Diagnostic companies are looking to expand overseas to off-set the sales in a saturated market. Business opportunities with diagnostic companies result in potential wider market opportunities.

Latest export opportunities – Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals

Latest export opportunities – Japan

Getting into the market

Direct collaboration opportunities with large Japanese pharmaceutical companies who operate globally would be the best way to get into the market, along with collaborating with medium sized Japanese pharmaceutical companies.

Globally operating Japanese pharmaceutical companies also have sales routes to emerging markets including China and India and collaboration with Japanese pharmaceutical companies could also provide access to these emerging markets.

Japanese companies place strong emphasis on developing the trust and mutual confidence that will lead to a strong and enduring relationship.

More about doing business in Japan


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.

  • Kaori Arai, British Embassy Tokyo. Tel: +81 (0)3 5211 1150 or email: [email protected].

  • Hitomi Nakai, British ConsulateGeneral Osaka. Tel: +81 (0)6 6120 5656 or email: [email protected]

Contact your local international trade team


UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

BIO tech 2013

Dates: 8-10 May 2013

Venue: Tokyo Big Sight

Website address:

Interphex Japan

Dates: 10-12 July 2013

Venue: Tokyo Big Sight

Website address:

Bio Japan 2013

Dates: 9-11 October 2013

Venue: Pacifico Yokohama

Website address:

CphI Japan 2014

Dates: 9-11 April 2014

Venue: Tokyo Big Sight

Website address:

Latest events – Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals

Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Sectors: Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals
Countries: Japan
Export Action Plan