Site: Environmental Immuno-Chemical Technology Co., Ltd. (EIT)
1134-2 Gongendo, Satte-Shi
Saitama-Ken 340-01, Japan
Date Visited: 14 October 1998
WTEC Attendees: O.R. Zaborsky
The mission of the Environmental Immunochemical Technology Co., Ltd. (EIT) is to develop a rapid and highly sensitive analytical method for identifying environmental pollutants. In particular, the objective is to develop immunoassays for detecting chemicals released into the environment. To date, the major focus of efforts has been on screening for pesticide residues in food and water. EIT was established in 1994 with the participation of 6 companies covering the spectrum from chemical raw material supplier to pesticide producer to analytical instrumentation manufacturer. EIT is a 5-year joint research project, with planned funding of $10 million of which 70% comes from MITI through the Key Technology Center program and 30% from participating companies.
At the time of this visit, management included Mr. Tetsuya Zemba, Chairman, Cosmo Research Institute, Mr. Yojiro Yuasa, General Manager of R&D Division, and Dr. Masaro Hayashi, Research Manager of R&D Division.
EIT, which has its headquarters in Tokyo, is divided into six divisions, with each private company having a division. The companies involved, with division responsibilities, respectively, are the following:
Major research areas (with divisional responsibilities) are as follows:
Flutolanil (a,a,a-trifluoro-3 isopropoxy-o-toluanilide), regulated in Japan in more than 130 different farm products with maximum residue levels of 1-2 ppm, is being used as the model pesticide to develop the technology. Flutolanil is used on golf courses and rice fields. Monoclonal antibodies are also being developed for 10 other pesticides. Flutolanil is a small molecule, and hence there needs to be a spacer arm for antibody formation.
EIT currently is composed of 21 researchers, five of whom have PhDs. Disciplines included are chemistry, molecular biology, and analytical biochemistry. EIT is also starting to work with some academic institutions (e.g., Kobe Medical School) as well as agricultural and analytical institutes (not named) to disseminate immunoassay technology in Japan.
EIT is an effort dedicated to a very specific technology, i.e., immunoassays for pesticides. As such, it is the most dedicated effort within the biotech centers this WTEC panel visited.
EIT was planned to take advantage of its participating member firms that had some background technology, especially the Cosmo Research Center, the lead firm. This objective has been achieved.
Research results have led to the formulation of a test for flutolanil, a broad-spectrum fungicide using a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA test). Other tests are being developed, but no timetable was given for their completion or commercialization.
EIT represents a good example of a very pragmatic group of companies and researchers dedicated to a very tangible and realistic goal, namely to achieve a more cost-effective bio-based screening system for pesticides in soil, water, and food. Commercialization of the immunoassay had not yet been achieved at the time of this visit.
Research results are starting to be disseminated through publications and through presentations at meetings (e.g., Association of Official Analytical Chemists, AOAC).