When I first wrote about FluidicMEMS.com’s global microfluidics map, I suspected that companies outside of the US/Europe were probably missing, due to the English-based search used to form the list. Indeed, I recently learned of several microfluidics-related businesses in Japan, thanks to Naofumi Tamai of the Japanese venture capital firm Nanotech Partners that funds Nano Fusion Technologies, which develops micro-electro-osmotic pumps.
Looking for more, I also found this 2006 report by Ryozo Tanaka of the British Embassy in Tokyo on “Microfluidic Chip Technologies in Japan.” The report’s goal was to summarize the state of microfluidics in Japan, keeping in view potential UK-Japan collaborations. It discusses Japanese microfluidics development in industry and academia, as well as public initiatives to promote microfluidics research. A couple paragraphs jumped out at me:
Japanese researchers do not have much awareness about the current status of microfluidics R&D in the UK. Most researchers know the name of Professor Andreas Manz, who proposed the concept of μTAS (Micro Total Analysis Systems) when he worked in Imperial College London, and some have an interest in microfluidics related products by Epigem Limited located in Redcar. Some were also aware that the UK had a national project related to microfluidics in the 1990s, and were interested in its output.
While having a lead over the UK in basic microfluidic chip technologies, Japan is searching for novel ideas for applications and more R&D is required to put microfluidic chips into wider commercialisation. Japanese companies and research institutions, especially manufacturing companies, welcome collaboration with UK stakeholders, particularly those who have chemical or pharmaceutical expertise.
I wonder how many people would agree with this statement, either in the context in which it was written (2006) or in today’s environment. Is there a need for more cross-national awareness of microfluidic development activity? Surely the big conferences such as MicroTAS fulfill part of this need in the academic realm, but what about in the commercial domain?
To start getting a picture of the Japanese microfluidics commercial landscape, here are a few example companies — for more see links below:
Nano Fusion Technologies
Nano Fusion Technologies specializes in customized microfluidics solutions, with a focus on micro-electro-osmostic pumps for varied applications, including biomedical diagnostics, chemical analysis, and micro fuel cells. In 2008, there were reports of a collaboration between Dolomite and Nano Fusion Technologies.
Fluidware Technologies‘ website is in Japanese, but we can glean some information from Ryozo Tanaka’s 2006 report: “Fluidware Technologies Inc. was established in 2002 to commercialise microfluidic chip related technologies developed at the Fujii Laboratory in the University of Tokyo. Its key technologies are microfluidic chips made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), and micro devices such as micro system pumps and optical detecting systems.”
Adbic has been developing diagnostic microfluidic chips, including blood-based clinical diagnostics (e.g., blood urea nitrogen (BUN) for monitoring kidney function, and blood levels ofpotassium, sodium, glucose, and other molecules). Adbic was spun out of Dr. Yasuhiro Horiike’s lab at the National Institute of Materials Science (NIMS) in 2004.
More microfluidics companies in Japan:
Institute of Microchemical Technology (IMT): Supplier of off-the-shelf and custom microfluidic chips for various applications.
The Research Association of Micro Chemical Process Technology: Industry group designed to promote research on high-efficiency micro chemical process technology
Richell: Mass-produced, injection-molded microfluidic chips
Takasago Electric: Manufacturer of miniature chemically inert valves and pumps for applications such as medical diagnosis, environmental measurement, protein detection, and quality management (e.g., food safety)
YMC: Specializes in microreactors
Labcyte Japan: Japanese office of Labcyte, which specializes in assay miniaturization and automation, low-volume liquid handling for the life sciences
The Micro Chemical Initiative (MCI): A consortium of eight Japanese companies with interests in micro chemical applications of microfluidics (link from Tanaka’s 2006 report is entirely in Japanese, and does not appear to be active?)
Dolomite has an office in Japan
Are you aware of other commercial microfluidics activity in Japan? E-mail or comment!