Global Cases

Integrated solution provider for pharmaceutical industry “From upstream to downstream”


Global Based One-stop Shop for Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry has evolved remarkably since the latter half of the 20th century, so much so that some people are calling the 21st century “the century of pharmaceuticals.” The development of new drugs and the sourcing of materials for drugs are now conducted beyond countries and pharmaceutical companies are operated in a global basis.

Engaging together with its subsidiaries in its pharmaceuticals business, Summit Pharmaceuticals International Corporation (SPI), Summit Pharmaceuticals Europe(SPE) and Summit Pharmaceuticals China(SPC), Sumitomo Corporation offers comprehensive support to players in both the upstream and downstream segments of the pharmaceutical industry. We not only support the R&D of but also supply materials for new drugs and generic drugs by taking advantage of its long and broad experience and unique global structure as a general trading company. Through these activities, Sumitomo Corporation broadly contributes to the improvement of people’s quality of life worldwide.

For the discovery and clinical trial stages, we do investments and lending in pharmaceutical ventures and provide agency services for research alliances and licenses. For later developmental and commercial stages, we select appropriate suppliers from manufacturers in Japan, Europe, India, China, Korea, etc. and provide materials and formulations to pharmaceutical companies that produce new drugs as well as generic drugs. We also help foreign manufacturers to apply for the registrations like Foreign Manufacturer Accreditation(FMA) and Master File(MF) in Japan. In addition, API Laboratory (Kawasaki City) has been established to ensure the supply of high-quality APIs conforming to specifications, by carrying out quality analysis by its own staffs.

Inside the API Laboratory in Kawasaki.

Contribution to Drug Discovery

With the phenomenal development of life sciences research, the roles played by drug discovery instruments, bio-resource materials, and drug discovery technology have become increasingly important. SPI distributes several products and provides related services in drug discover area.

In the area of drug discovery instruments, SPI provides in vivo imaging instrument for non-invasive monitoring (that is not damaging to the living body) of the progress and healing process of diseases, contributing to the development of basic and drug discovery research in life science. SPI’s Support Center in Yokohama offers comprehensive customer support, including instrument demonstration, quality inspection, repair, maintenance, and consultation on instrument applications. SPI also holds the In Vivo Imaging Forum , in which leading scientists give presentations on the latest uses of the instruments for customers. Having been held 12 times, the forum is attracting increasing attention.

In the area of drug discovery support, SPI offers services that meet frontline needs, which include intermediating for new drug licenses, research alliances and contracted manufacture of biopharmaceuticals such as nucleic acid and antibody as well as providing bio-resource materials, such as cell lines and genetic material for research in Japan. As the sole agency in Japan for basic patents for CRISPR / CAS9 genome editing technology, which has been attracting attention in recent years, we also undertake intermediate technology licensing. Meanwhile, over the 30-plus years since it entered the distribution business of bio-resource materials, SPI has enhanced the lineups of gene vectors, cell lines with genetic mutations, iPS cell-related materials and so on. In addition, SPI distributes high-quality human tissue samples stored after removed by surgery to research together with information on the pre- and post-operation history of disease and treatment. As one of our new initiatives, we have begun selling mesenchymal stem cells derived from fat and dental pulp for research use.

In Vivo Imaging Forum 2019

SPI has also launched new initiatives in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) drug discovery, which is anticipated to enhance productivity in the process of drug discovery. Specifically, the company has been utilizing AI technology and data compiled by pharmaceutical companies to develop technologies for substantially reducing the costs and time required in the compound optimization stage. In order to extend comprehensive support for research and development in the pharmaceutical industry, SPI provides multifaceted services by collaborating with biotechnology companies and research institutions in and outside Japan. combining with human tissue samples, biomarker research and AI technology. As a member of the Sumitomo Corporation Group, SPI aims to support the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, with its series of integrated R&D support services.

Supporting the Penetration of Generic Drugs in Japan

The term “generic drug” is now in common. In fact, many people may have had the experience of being asked by their prescribing physician whether or not they would prefer a generic drug. So what are generic drugs? When patents for new drugs expire, drugs made of the same components and with the same efficacy are put on the market. These are called generic drugs. Their advantage is that they can be offered at lower prices because they do not entail development costs.

SPI supplies APIs to generic drug manufacturers. Taking advantages of the global network of the Sumitomo Corporation Group, SPI selects, from all over the world, suppliers of high-quality APIs that demonstrate strong price competitiveness. It then conducts specification setting and quality testing of these ingredients at its API Laboratory, which is equipped with cutting-edge analyzers. By ensuring a stable supply of competitive, quality-controlled APIs, SPI helps reduce the cost of generic drugs as well as achieve their stable supply.

Government measures for promoting the use of generics set a high target calling for “generics to achieve a quantitative share of 80% by September 2020,” and we are seeing a tailwind effect from this, as evidenced by the quantitative share reaching roughly 76% in the first quarter of 2019.

By supporting the popularization of generic drugs, the Sumitomo Corporation Group not only contributes to reducing the economic burden on individual patients but also helps control medical healthcare expenses in Japan as a whole.

Providing Marketing Innovating Drugs in the United States and Emerging Countries

Today, the US market accounts for some 40% of the entire global pharmaceuticals market of approximately 130 trillion yen. While demand for pharmaceuticals in the United States is expected to continue to rise as its population ages, its government is seeking to reduce medical expenditures. This situation provides generic drugs an opportunity to play a wider role. Through Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, Sumitomo Corporation acquired a 20% stake in Upsher-Smith Laboratories, (USL), a generic pharmaceutical company owned by a US subsidiary of Sawai Pharmaceutical and entered into the US generic pharmaceuticals market. USL has been engaged in research and development, manufacture and sale of generic drugs, having its strong development, stable supply and robust sales capabilities as well as a solid customer base built up over many years of business.

Sumitomo Corporation will capitalize on its strengths as an integrated trading company to support USL’s business management by supplying materials for drugs and helping USL put new products on the market. By widely offering high quality generic drugs through USL, we hope to contribute  people’s  health and enjoying their life.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical markets in such countries as Brazil, Russia and Turkey are expanding rapidly as their economies develop and living standards rise. The growth rates of drug markets in these countries, known as “emerging pharmaceuticals markets,” exceed the average growth rate of the global drug market. By 2021, these emerging pharmaceuticals markets are projected to account for around one fourth of the entire global market. Sumitomo Corporation intends to strengthen its relationship with local pharmaceutical companies in these countries to support their introduction of biopharmaceuticals and government-backed local production, thereby stepping up its efforts to promote people’s health and enrich their lives.

USL head office (Minnesota, USA)

April 2020


  • Mineral Resources, Energy, Chemical & Electronics Business
  • Japan
  • East Asia
  • Asia and Oceania
  • Europe, CIS
  • Middle East, Africa
  • The Americas
  • Chemical Electronics

Related Cases