A longtime reader pointed me to this article from Business Week. Fuji Film of Japan, facing all kinds of problems like the other film makers of the world, has decided to put some of its money into a more exciting, profitable, high-margin business: pharmaceuticals! Back in February they made an offer for small-to-medium sized Toyama.
Readers who have been around the industry for a few years may shudder, remembering Kodak's disastrous experience with Sterling-Winthrop. (You couldn't have paid a gang of saboteurs to do a better - well, worse - job on Sterling and its employees; this PDF will give you some of the story). The details of the interview, which gets crazier as it goes on, do not inspire happy feelings. Well, unless schadenfreude counts as "happy", that is. Feast on this, for example, from Yuzo Toda, the company's VP for Life Sciences:
"The film in your camera is about 15 microns (one-thousandth of a millimeter) thick. Our color film has 17 different layers, each with a different function, and it contains nearly 100 different chemicals. Controlling the chemical reaction to develop these photos is extremely difficult. You have to start and stop the various chemicals at exactly the right time to make it all work. The trick is all in the conversion of chemicals. Drugs targeting a specific [organ or receptor in the body] work the same way. We have a chemical library of 200,000 compounds, which we think will help us with creating new compounds, and we have an expertise in nanotechnology. From our viewpoint, it's more a question of why not pharmaceuticals?"
Well, with a library of two hundred thousand compounds (cue Mike Myers as Dr. Evil, demanding his million dollars), I don't see what's going to hold them back. Considering the sorts of wonderfully druglike photosensitive absorbers and dye-coupling agents they're stocked up with, I'm sure the screening hit rates will be exciting, too. And yes, I am considering making "The trick is all in the conversion of chemicals" the new slogan of this blog, and I urge Fuji to make it the advertising tag line for their whole drug business.
But let's not pick on just one guy. Here's Toshio Takahashi, the company's CFO:
"Many drugs are made in higher dosages than we need. That's because they can't be fully absorbed by our bodies. It's a waste of resources, and it can have an adverse effect on organs such as the stomach and liver. We're researching compounds that will work in smaller doses because they will target a specific part of the body."
Now there's a thought. I wish Fuji luck with these innovative ideas, although I don't think I'm capable of delivering the quantities of luck that it appears they'll need. I assume that the people at Toyama don't talk this way, i.e., as if they'd just been beamed in from Neptune and then hit over the head, and for all I know they're burying their heads in their hands as they read this stuff, too. Who knows, maybe if Fuji can keep their hands off of them and not impart too many lessons from the film business, the deal could work.
But for now, check out the interview, and be glad it's not you. Sheesh.