Most biotechnology companies thinking about a Japanese partner are doing it for the market access. Not many are thinking about a true development partner, and even fewer are thinking about joint ventures. But George Rathmann, Icos Corp. chairman, president and CEO, has taken the joint venture route twice with Japanese pharmaceutical companies. The first time was with Kirin Brewery Co. Ltd. of Tokyo when he was CEO of Amgen Inc.

This time, ICOS has put together a joint venture with Suntory Ltd.'s Suntory Pharmaceutical Division (Tokyo). The new company, Suncos, will develop and commercialize rPAF-AH (recombinant platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase), an enzyme that degrades the pro-inflammatory mediator PAF. The companies will use the agent to treat acute conditions related to asthma, ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and acute pancreatitis.