Scratch below the surface of the cultural gulf between Japanese pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies in the West, and there are two practical problems lurking: biotech companies can't wait as long as it takes for Japanese companies to do a deal, and the Japanese companies are uncomfortable with early stage technology.

Rather than continue to try to fit a square peg into a round hole, Shinichi Tamura of Sosei Co. Ltd. (Tokyo) has set about to recarve the terrain. Sosei, together with an undisclosed Japanese pharmaceutical company, Rothschild's Biotechnology Investments Ltd., Schroder Pacific Technology Partners and Oxford BioScience Partners, set up a $5 million feasibility fund last summer to play the role of both investor, risk-taker and matchmaker.