Yuewei (Shining) Sun is the manager at Fortis Hi-Tech, ViVitro’s sales representative in China. Sun visited ViVitro in early January for a week of extensive training. During a break, he talked with ViVitro Labs (VL) about the unique attributes of the Chinese market, Fortis-Tech, and plans for the future.
VL: Tell us about your background and what you do at Fortis Hi-Tech:
YS: After graduating from university with a degree in mechanical engineering, I worked in automation – hydraulics and pneumatics of the motor. After a few years in this field I switched to fluid transmission – especially for automobiles. Specifically a sealant and adhesive dispenser system.
Our main business at Fortis is service and engineering. We have six employees and two assist me with hardware support for ViVitro equipment. Prior to working with ViVitro we were looking at areas to expand beyond automotive applications because the area is quite competitive in China and it is very hard to be unique. We wanted to have a new company to do creative things. A friend in the medical device industry suggested we consider medical equipment because it is growing very fast in China. I researched the equipment market, and while studying stents, I noticed heart valve products and learned about ViVitro.
My friend said that ViVitro is a very good company and there were customers in China that I could contact for more information. I spoke with them and they were very interested in ViVitro products. I contacted David Mester (ViVitro GM at the time) about selling products in China. Fortunately, David agreed I could be the distributor in China. When I visited the team in Victoria, I knew I had made a good decision.
Five years later, under Gerry Wight’s management, ViVitro communicates a lot more, holds a seminar in China every year and visits our customers at least once a year with me.
VL: What was it like to sell cardiovascular device test equipment in China five years ago?
YS: Five years ago there were only 2-3 manufacturers in China and the testing center was still using an old standard. The manufacturers were studying and trying to find a new supplier, not just for the testing equipment but for the testing methodology. Initially I would simply supply equipment, translate information provided by ViVitro, and transfer it to customers because I had no background in cardiovascular testing.
In the beginning this worked because the ISO standards that applied in China were minimal compared to today, so companies didn’t need further service or consulting. Even today, the ISO standards used are not the latest available. While the industry still lags behind North America and Europe, they require much more information than five years ago.
VL: Do you plan to expand into cardiovascular testing services?
YS: We are currently working with customers to build system parts. I want to expand the Fortis business by making simple custom equipment (small accessories compared to the ViVitro equipment) for universities and institutes. For example, a steady flow device that provides an overview of the flow, but not specific measurements. It would be suitable for teaching and early research and development, but not for regulatory purposes.
VL: What’s unique about the Chinese market?
YS: For me there are two differences. When we started working with cardiovascular devices, we got our knowledge from US and Canada. In the beginning, we didn’t develop, we just followed. Now, more and more investors are investing in China because it is big. We can do more independent research with data from China for devices made for Chinese people. In the beginning, the difference was that we were not a developer, but a follower.
The second difference is the construction of the patient. We have a different heart disease focus in China. We have a very big market for one kind of product that is smaller in the US. In the US, heart valves are mainly for elderly patients. In China, because there are patient differences or the treatments are different, more younger people need heart valve surgery. They have different requirements for these kinds of devices.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses needles and other physical treatments to keep the body balanced long term. For a big disease, western medicine works right away, but it doesn’t care about afterwards or about long term– things like maybe you should adjust your body to be as far as possible from displaying visible signs of disease. Chinese medicine cares about keeping all of your organs balanced together. Not, if you liver is diseased, you just work on the liver. No, we want all of the organs and all of the body to work together.
If you have a very serious disease in China, they normally have two ways; one is to use western medicine to control the disease because it really works, and at the same time they take Chinese medicine to adapt the whole body for the long term suitability against the disease. We normally use both ways. But we think the western medicine is so strong it may cause other problems you cannot see. Chinese medicine is more subtle and can cure your disease very peacefully.
VL: Does it work? Have they done any tests?
YS: No. Chinese medicine is hard to prove. We use different plants as natural medicine which have poison inside. We cannot prove that this is totally suitable for a specific disease or is not harmful to the body. Even now, these medicines are only available in China and Asia. We believe the treatment is better although it is a little hard to prove. Lots of work remains to prove the results in a way similar to western testing.
VL: What are the opportunities and challenges for cardiovascular devices in China?
YS: The market is growing very, very fast in China. Initially, only a big company would be interested in cardiovascular devices, but now more and more mid-sized companies are becoming involved. The market is not as interested in the equipment itself, but in the chance to obtain more details for their testing or the design they are developing. That means the basics are fine now, but they seek more professional equipment, accessories, service and consulting. That’s our opportunity and our challenge. The opportunity is they ask for more. The challenge is that Fortis should know more. That’s why I’m here for more information to satisfy our customers. Fortunately, the Chinese market is quite new to this area, ViVitro is the leader, and I can get the top training from ViVitro experts. Together we grow to serve our clients. I look forward to continuing my personal training so I can better serve my customers in China.
VL: Is the market mainly about the domestic market or creating devices for other countries?
YS: Since last year, the big manufacturers in China have begun to acquire foreign companies and develop the global market. Microport is an example. Previously they focused on the market in China. Now they try to meet standards and marks for CE in order to export to Europe or other countries.
VL: Any advice for cardiovascular researchers in China?
YS: For me the main problem is time. The market is changing very fast. If you have a good idea, you should act very fast to follow the changing market. If not, you’ll lose the opportunity. Universities and institutes are trying to do more research in China. In the future we will conduct Chinese research and testing so we can use all of the data from China. We are conducting research now and I hope that soon we will make devices just for China.