Varian to open facility in Wuxi
Varian Medical Systems Inc, a major United States medical device and software manufacturer, recently announced it will open a new plant in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, making X-ray tubes, digital panel detectors and other wireless imaging devices.
The plant, which will break ground in the latter half of this year and start operations next year, will be Varian’s second largest imaging components plant in the world.
Established in 1948, Varian is the world’s largest manufacturer of oncology treatment devices. It started doing business in China in 1983, and built its headquarters and first plant in Beijing in 2006. It now has four offices in China with 350 employees.
According to Zhang Xiao, executive vice-president and managing director of Varian China, the demand for radiotherapy products has been surging in this country.
“We chose Wuxi also because it is close to our major clients,” Zhang said. “Currently, most domestic and international diagnostic imaging equipment manufacturers (such as computed tomography and radiography devices) are based in Shanghai, so the Wuxi plant will supply parts to them more conveniently.”
Once it starts operating, the plant will be able to supply more X-ray tubes. Currently, Varian makes about 60 percent of the world’s X-ray tubes.
Figures from the World Health Organization show that in the US, more than 70 percent of tumors are treated by radiation therapy, but in China, the number is only 16 percent; and for every one millionth person there are 8.5 linear accelerators in the US, five in France, but only 0.97 in China.
Yu Jinming, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said Chinese hospitals have overlooked the value of radiotherapy and are too dependent on surgery and chemotherapy.
Compared with surgery, radiotherapy is more effective in the early stage of cancer, especially with lung cancer, he said.
“We should establish a mechanism in the hospital: When a patient is brought in, doctors from different disciplines should meet to discuss which therapy is the best approach. If radiotherapy is the best approach, then do it before it is too late,” he said.
And with technology progressing, radiotherapy can do less damage to the healthy tissue when the rays go through the body.
The proton therapy center in Shanghai made headlines when it opened on May 7. This powerful medical system is a sophisticated radiotherapy tool that can destroy tumors quickly without hurting healthy tissue.
Because radiotherapy equipment is costly, for its most popular model Unique, the price ranges from 10 million to 20 million yuan, ($1.6 million to $3.2 million) the Chinese government has set quotas for the total number of machines for hospitals.
But China is becoming the biggest strategic market for Varian and Zhang said it has
the already become the second largest market just after the US. Market research company GIA Inc recently published a report saying that driven by the demands in Asia-Pacific, East Europe and Latin America, the radiotherapy market will reach $3.9 billion in 2015.
Chinese Cancer Registry Annual Report in 2012 shows that every year there are 3.5 million new cases of cancer in China, and with the aging population, the number is forecast to increase rapidly.
“With the local production of its model Unique next year, which can treat 80 percent of cancer patients suitable for radiation therapy, the cost can be further brought down, and the county-level hospitals can save the hassle of importation and save the tariff and logistics costs,” Zhang said.
About 10 years ago, the government established a policy to ensure cancer diagnoses can be done at the county level, but patients found to have the disease had to go to provinciallevel hospitals for treatment, because there was no equipment at county-level hospitals.
“With the progress of China’s medical reform, I think more hospitals will buy this equipment, so the market potential in China is huge,” Zhang said.