Two St. Jude Medical strategies intersected Tuesday as the maker of new innovative medical devices unveiled the latest of its advanced technology centers in one of the world’s most coveted med-tech markets: China.
The St. Jude Medical Advanced Technology Center Asia Pacific officially opened Tuesday morning in Beijing. It’s the latest of a series of St. Jude training centers to roll out across the globe. The first was opened in Brussels in 2008 and St. Jude broke ground on a manufacturing facility and training center in Malyasia earlier this month. Other centers are planned for Japan, Costa Rica and the United States.
The centers provide education and training to physicians from across a continent to St. Jude equipment in the areas of cardiology, cardiac surgery and arrhythmia management. Plus, it primes physicians in the region to use St. Jude products.
Sang Yi, vice president of Asia Pacific for St. Jude Medical, said that in Europe less than 20 percent of physicians surveyed there had performed only one particular cardiac ablation procedure before training at the center. That number increased to more than 80 percent after the training, Yi said.
“The mission of the Advanced Technology Center both aligns with the St. Jude Medical brand promise and helps develop the market for technologies and treatments which may not otherwise be used that could benefit patients,” Yi said.
More than 2,000 physicians from Asia will visit the China center annually, St. Jude stated in a release.
Many medical device companies want to build their brands in China, where heart disease is surging and treatments are largely untapped. Heart disease and stroke are expected to kill 7.7 million Chinese over the next two decades, according to research released in May.
Meanwhile, St. Jude CEO Daniel Starks once shared with analysts the anecdote that in 2008 the total number of implantable cardioverter defibrillator implants in China was fewer than 700 units. In contrast, there are more than easily a half-million implants annually in the United States.
“So, if that’s even approximately right, look at just that one market as we think about the next 5 or 10 years,” Starks said on China in late 2009.
Yi also said “St. Jude Medical attaches great importance to the China market,” though the company is opaque about its progress in the region. The company opened its first China office in 1996 with 10 employees. It now employs 250 in five locations, including its Asia Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong. It’s also had some ups and downs; China rejected St. Jude pacemakers as unsafe in 2001 and again in 2007.
About 6 percent of St. Jude’s revenue comes from the Asia Pacific, according to recent earnings reports. St. Jude would not release how much of that revenue comes from China.
“Though, with more than 1 billion people, it is easy to imagine the potential,” Yi said.