As the world scrambles to find an effective treatment and develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus, camera maker Fujifilm’s name popped up in the headlines, but it had nothing to do with the cameras or film that they’re known for.
Like many of you, I’ve been casting a wary eye at the news the past few weeks as concerns mount over the coronavirus. And that fear, uncertainty, and doubt was reflected yesterday in a huge, worldwide stock dump. We saw the DOW dropping 4.4% in its worst one-day point drop in history. That compared to Japan’s benchmark Topix index, which slumped as much as 4.2%, the most since December 2018.
However, if we look at what Fujiflm holdings is doing, it’s doing exactly that, it’s holding steady. And five days ago we actually saw an 8% stock increase. So why is Fujifilm stock holding steady while so many others are suffering?
According to Bloomberg, it’s in response to Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato’s comments over the weekend on the country’s plans to recommend its Avigan drug to treat coronavirus.
In his statement, Kato affirmed that while there is no effective treatment for COVID-19, there is perhaps some hope in an antivirus drug Avigan (marketed under the name Favipiravir). Kato told reporters his ministry will check how effective flu drugs are at fighting the disease and, if necessary, make it possible for many medical institutions to administer them to patients.
This is particularly interesting to us photographers because Fujifilm Holdings actually developed this drug.
Keep in mind that photography and imaging make up only 16% of Fujifilm’s 22.6 billion in sales for the Japanese fiscal year ending March 31 2019, whereas 43% of that total revenue was made up of health care and material solution sales. Much of this was from Fujifilm’s pharmaceutical unit called Toyoma Chemical, the developer of Avigan. And while Avigan has proven extremely useful in treating Ebola virus, as well as many other flu-type viruses, it’s still in clinical trials and labeled as an experimental treatment.
Nevertheless, the Japanese government kept stockpiles of the drug in preparation for influenza outbreaks and China is currently testing a generic form of this drug as a possible treatment for the COVID-19.
So it seams that, in addition to the 7 million Chinese Yuan (approximately $1 million) worth of medical diagnostic systems, clinical examination devices, and Fuji Xerox’s printers that Fuji sent to China earlier this month, Fujifilm may also have another very important way to offer help during these uncertain times.
We certainly wish them and all others fighting this global concern all the best. In the meantime, if you’re a Fujifilm fan, best to get those Fuji X-T4 and/or Fuji X100V pre-orders in now if you want any hope of getting them in early 2020, in the face of China’s manufacturing crisis.
Full disclosure: Andrew has a very small amount of Fujfilm stock and a very large amount of Fujifilm gear.
About the author: Andrew is a documentary photographer and product designer living in and documenting the America’s Southwest. Andrew runs a photography YouTube channel with his wife Denae.