Healthcare businesses from Switzerland diagnose prospects in Chinese market

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/18 19:57:22


To leverage its leading position in the healthcare industry, Switzerland has set sights on the Chinese market, which has a burgeoning middle class ready to loosen bulging purse strings to access advanced medical services.

Top-notch Swiss health businesses are looking for wealth from health in the Chinese market. Exploris, which according to the company's website possesses artificial intelligence-based diagnostic and therapeutic solutions that have passed clinical studies, is one of them.   

"The Chinese market is very important for us because it's a huge market," Peter Ruff, CEO and founder of Swiss healthcare company Exploris, told the Global Times.

Ruff finished his first tour of China earlier this month to dig out business opportunities. The tour, organized by the Swiss Embassy in China, selected 10 high-growth Swiss startups for an exclusive 10-day roadshow in the second largest economy. 

Ruff said China's development and the keenness of hospitals to seek new technologies impressed him during the tour. He believes that his company and Chinese hospitals will make a good match.

"A lot of hospitals need help to reduce the waiting list and get better diagnostics at the primary stage. We could fit in very well with our tests and help them solve the problems and make better diagnosis," Ruff told the Global Times.

"Our idea is to support the doctors with the information we get to help them make better decisions," he said.  

The visiting Swiss firms under the aegis of the Swiss embassy have come from industries including healthcare, music and technology to name a few. Visiting a roadshow event at the Swiss Embassy in Beijing, the Global Times reporter found eager Chinese investors throng the location to watch the presentations by company executives who spoke from a stage. 

After the presentations, the executives were approached by the prospective investors to explore opportunities. 

Investors scoured opportunities among healthcare companies, eyeing their favorites, even forming a short queue to share a word with the visiting executives. 

An investor who was waiting to talk to Marco Pisano, CEO of Lymphatica Medtech which develops medical devices for the treatment of lymphatic diseases, said that her mother suffered from a related illness and she was very interested in Lymphatica's technology. The technology, she said, will gain popularity in China. 

"I found many investors [who are] interested in [my company]. But interacting [with investors] is a process. Everything is still under discussion," Pisano told the Global Times. 

"There is a big demand in the Chinese market for a solution to this disease. And we are the first company developing such a solution. So our idea is that we can enter the Chinese market and be the first to provide the solution for people," he said. 

But entering the Chinese market comes with its share of challenges. Regulations require clinical trials to precede market entry. "We want to start it next year and then it will take two years of clinical trials. Then in 2022 or 2023, we will be able to enter the market," he said. 

In addition, to seek Chinese investment, they also need to find hospitals to work with for the clinical trials. 

While sounding optimistic about the future, he admitted many hurdles lie ahead. "We have the difficulty of finding the right person who can help us understand the market," he said. 

Pisano is now looking forward to cooperating with Chinese hospitals as well as companies with knowledge of selling medical devices, and also possibly manufacturing. He also wants to work with investors who can develop the market entry strategy for the Chinese market. 

Ruff told the Global Times he is not only looking for investors in the financial field, but also seeking collaboration with Chinese companies. He hopes to find Chinese companies that are able to provide the distribution channel so that they can get access to the clients.

Leaders of 10 fast-growing Swiss startups pose for a group photo after giving presentations at the Swiss Embassy in China on July 4 during a roadshow event to promote their companies to Chinese investors. Photo: Xie Wenting/GT

Opportunities for Chinese side

According to Ruff, the opportunity for Chinese investors in the healthcare industry is to "invest in a very advanced technology which is leading-edge." 

Since Switzerland formally endorsed the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in April, the two nations have seen consolidating ties. 

"Joining the BRI is beneficial for Swiss companies. It will help us better introduce our products to China," Ruff said.  

Pisano stressed that under the BRI, there are many opportunities for cooperation between Chinese and Swiss companies in the health and medical care industry. He noted that Switzerland is the leader in healthcare technology and since an aging Chinese population is seeking premium healthcare services, there will be many possibilities of collaboration, which in turn are opportunities for Chinese investors. 

For Dorina Thiess, the opportunity goes beyond the human healthcare industry. Her company Piavita, which provides digital diagnostics for horses, also found favor with investors during this China tour.

"There are a lot of horses and [domestic] horse sports market is growing fast in China," Thiess said. She is "surprised" by the enthusiasm that Chinese people have shown for the industry. 

As Piavita is still in the growth stage, Thiess said they are looking for an investment of $6 million to $20 million. "We want to work with an investor who is both experienced internationally and has strong relationships in China. So we can do business together," she said.
Newspaper headline: Healthy opportunities


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