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Business deals

Online retailer Rakuten buys into US cancer treatment venture

CEO Mikitani, himself Aspyrian Therapeutics' top investor, sees synergies

Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani

TOKYO -- Japanese online retailer Rakuten is entering the cancer treatment business by acquiring more than 20% of U.S. medical startup Aspyrian Therapeutics.

Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, who already owns the top stake in Aspyrian, serves as chairman of the venture's board and revealed the investment plan.

The California startup plans to conduct clinical trials on a promising treatment method called photoimmunotherapy in Japan, alongside ongoing trials in the U.S. The basic idea behind the treatment is to kill cancer cells by activating the immune system.

Rakuten, which will bring the venture into its consolidated group, aims to launch a medical service that capitalizes on both the cancer business and health-related data collected from shoppers on its online marketplace. The company hopes to turn this into a core operation.

Photoimmunotherapy was developed in 2011 by a group of researchers led by Hisataka Kobayashi at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. 

(Nikkei)

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