SoftBank Vision Fund invests in Japanese firm for 1st time

© Kyodo News

SoftBank Group Corp.'s Vision Fund has invested in a Japanese biotechnology company, the startup said Friday, marking its first investment in a domestic firm.

Aculys Pharma Inc., based in Fujisawa in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo, said it has raised a total of 6.8 billion yen ($60 million) from the tech investor, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment Co. and others.

SoftBank Group has invested more than $100 billion in startups in Europe, the United States and China that use advanced technology to create innovative services. The latest investment is expected to be a turning point for the growth of domestic tech ventures.

The investment in Aculys Pharma will be used for the clinical development and commercialization of a drug for treating sleep disorders, approved by U.S. and European authorities, eventually bringing it to the Japanese market.

The biotechnology venture was founded in January, with Kazunari Tsunaba, a former president of the Japanese arm of Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG, serving as president.

"We welcome the support of our global group of high-quality investors to advance the program," Tsunaba said in a statement. "We will do our best to help as many patients as possible to improve their quality of life."

The investment was made through the SoftBank Vision Fund 2, set up in 2019 with $108 billion to invest in growing companies focusing on artificial intelligence-based technology, in a follow-up to a nearly $100 billion fund established in 2017.