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CombiMatrix Enters Microarray Joint Venture With Japanese Conglomerate

NEW YORK, Oct. 29 - Microarray company CombiMatrix has launched a joint venture with the Japanese trading company Marubeni Japan, CombiMatrix announced on Monday.

The project will help CombiMatrix, a subsidiary of Pasadena, Calif.-based Acacia Research, to develop a market for its microarray technology with Japanese pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Marubeni has acquired a minority interest in the venture and will fund operations and management for at least three years. The joint venture will be based in Tokyo, with a local research and marketing staff, CombiMatrix said.

This type of joint venture between a US biotech firm and a Japanese multinational trading company is unusual, said Paul Ryan, Acacia's chairman and CEO.

"United States companies will oftentimes use Japanese trading companies to identify partners in Japan, since it makes the process more efficient," he said. "In this case, the unusual aspect is that they took an equity stake and put up the money."

Ryan described Marubeni’s stake as "modest" and said that further financial details would remain confidential.

The deal was driven by the Marubeni technical team's interest in CombiMatrix' microarray technology, said Ryan. CombiMatrix, based outside Seattle, is working on a technique to rapidly produce customizable biochips.

Marubeni is the 20th largest company in the world, according to the Fortune Global 500, with annual sales approaching $100 billion in 2000. It has offices and subsidiaries in 75 countries and handles goods ranging from cattle hides to bauxite.

The company formed Berevno, a biotechnology research company, earlier this year. The firm, which employs Japanese and American researchers, will develop and commercialize emerging technologies.

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