The $7.2m Ricoh Biomedical Startup Fund was formed by the imaging technology producer to back up its recent acquisition of mRNA drug developer Elixirgen.

Japan-based electronics and imaging technology producer Ricoh is set to announce a ¥1bn ($7.2m) seed fund that will back developers of messenger RNA technology (mRNA) technology.

Two physicians looking at a tablet
Photo courtesy of Ricoh

Ricoh Biomedical Startup Fund is being set up in partnership with local venture capital firm Venture Labo Investment and will be formally launched next month, the company said today. The size of the fund was reported by Nikkei.

The move comes after Ricoh upped its share in Elixirgen Scientific, a US-based stem cell researcher that a year ago became the first business to offer mRNA drug contract development and manufacturing services in the Asia Pacific region, to a majority stake last month.

Messenger RNA is an RNA molecule read as part of synthesising a protein. It can be used to trigger an immune response in the body as part of therapeutics or vaccines, and Pfizer–BioNTech, Moderna and CureVac used the technology in their covid-19 vaccines.

Ricoh currently provides healthcare enterprise products but plans to combine its digitalisation and automation technology with Elixirgen’s to produce personalised medicines focusing on areas like pandemics and ageing. Other companies are working on RNA vaccines for a range of diseases, from HIV to maleria and ebola.

The fund will invest in mRNA product developers at seed stage for a 10-year period. It is the first in Japan to concentrate solely on mRNA technology startups. It is also the first investment vehicle for Ricoh, despite many of its domestic competitors maintaining established corporate venture subsidiaries.

Fujifilm already runs a life science-focused investment vehicle while Nikon, Hoya and Olympus have dedicated venture arms and Konica Minolta is an active early-stage investor in its own right.