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Matrix Science Launches Tokyo Mascot: Is Japan the Hottest Software Market Around?

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Japan has its own HUPO chapter, its own major mass spec company, its own offices for most of the major American mass spec companies, and now it even has its own Mascot. London-based Matrix Science, creator of this popular mass spec search engine, announced this week that it is opening a subsidiary in Tokyo due to particularly strong growth in the area and a need for greater presence in the region.

Japan has “been a third of our business for maybe the past three years,” Matrix Science founder and director John Cottrell told ProteoMonitor’s sister publication, BioInform. “We just treat the Japanese market as very important, and one of the reasons for the move is to try and get closer to it.”

The nine-person company currently has a one-person subsidiary in the US “really to have a presence in the right time zone,” but has no plans to open subsidiaries in any other countries any time in the “near future,” according to Cottrell. “This was very much a specific opportunity. … It would be hard to see the justification” of opening branches elsewhere, Cottrell said.

The subsidiary in Japan will initially consist only of two people, but will expand as needed. As a result of its formation, Matrix Science will end its distribution agreement with Japanese company Infocon at the end of February (see PM 3-17-03). “We’re sorry about that — there’s nothing negative about [the collaboration],” Cottrell said.

Matrix Science isn’t the only proteomics software company that sees gold in Japan. “The interest from Japan and the Pacific Rim has been very, very good for us,” said John Spreadbury, group sales and marketing director of Nonlinear Dynamics, who penned a global distribution deal with Japanese mass spec company Shimadzu last week (see PM 1-16-04). “We’re seeing growth to almost 15 percent of our business from Japan.”

Spreadbury told BioInform that although Nonlinear did not have plans to open a subsidiary in Japan — and although the company sees its product offerings and situation as different from that of Matrix Science — he thought Matrix Science’s decision to do so “was a good move for them.”

The move comes at a time in which most mass spec vendors report fairly consistent overall growth in Asia, although recently the focus for several companies has shifted somewhat from Japan to countries such as China and India (see PM 7-25-03). Gene Cassis, vice president of investor relations for Waters, told ProteoMonitor that Japan is “someplace between 8 and 12 percent of the market” for mass spec sales at Waters, that overall growth for the company in Japan “has been consistently higher than our growth in the US and Europe,” and that sales in Japan were “closing in on $100 million,” although he emphasized that the single largest market for mass specs remained the US market.

Cottrell pointed to the strength of the mass spec market as a major reason that Matrix Science is placing so much emphasis on Japan. “Japan has always been very strong in mass spectrometry, and proteomics still seems to be a very hot field [there],” Cottrell said. “There is no sense of plateauing like, possibly, one might say about the US market or the European market.” Because Mascot is used in conjunction with mass spec, he said, it follows that sales of the software would follow the same market trends. Mascot is “a much smaller investment but it’s what allows you to make use of the instruments that you bought,” he added.

Cassis cautioned, however, that putting all one’s chips on Japan may not be the way to go. “It’s clearly a significant geographical area for mass spectrometry, but to say that it’s the major area of growth in mass spectrometry I think would be a little bit on the extreme side,” he said.

Still, for the purposes of a small software company, the language challenges alone provide a strong incentive to set up shop in Japan. “In some cases, it will be appropriate to localize our products and provide Japanese documentation and Japanese user interfaces,” Cottrell said. “Having our own operation there just makes it that much easier.”

In addition to the classic Mascot search engine, Matrix Science last June launched Mascot Distiller, mass spec software that does “raw data processing.” “We take mass spectrometry data, and you can browse it and process it into peak lists,” Cottrell said. The company also has a collaboration with LIMS company LabVantage, and Cottrell hinted that there may be an announcement regarding the partnership at the ABRF meeting in Portland, Ore., at the end of February.

— KAM

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