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Business Trends

Japan's university startups top 2,000 for first time

Ventures in biotech and health care outnumber IT fledglings

Tokyo-listed biotech company Peptidream sprang out of research at the University of Tokyo.

TOKYO -- The number of startups created to commercialize results of research and development at Japanese universities rose 13% in fiscal 2017 to surpass 2,000 for the first time, a survey by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry shows.

The total for the year ending this month reached 2,093. Though information technology businesses make up about half of Japan's overall startup scene, the biggest category of university ventures consists of biotech, health care and medical equipment at 659, followed by IT at 614.

The University of Tokyo spawned the highest number at 245, followed by Kyoto University at 140 and the University of Tsukuba at 98. Nagoya University jumped to seventh place from 12th in the fiscal 2016 survey, raising its number of startups to 69.

University-affiliated ventures that have gone on to become Tokyo-listed companies include biotech names Peptidream and Euglena -- the former provides a drug discovery database while the latter develops food and fuel from algae -- as well as machine learning software developer PKSHA Technology. All three grew out of the University of Tokyo.

Kyoto University is known for its stem cell research center headed by Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka. Megakaryon, a Kyoto-based startup, is drawing on research from one of the university's teams of scientists as it develops a way to mass-produce platelets -- essential for blood clotting -- from reprogrammed cells.

Despite the healthy growth, Japan still trails other countries including the U.S. in university startups. The ministry will unveil a public database of such ventures Friday, looking to encourage more cooperation between industry and academia.

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