Expo will prove a great platform to publicize innovative tech, equipment and pharmaceuticals

Visitors check out the booth of Boston Scientific during the third China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai in 2020. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

All eyes may be on the China International Import Expo whose fourth edition will open this week. Who can resist such a grand fair that will spotlight flashy exhibits and novel solutions the world has to offer? Certainly not multinational medical companies operating in China. They are among the corporates that are riding China's favorable policies and vast market potential.

"Spillover effects" and "product debuts", executives said, are the main chords running through their participation themes for this year's CIIE.

After all, the nation of 1.4 billion people still faces unmet medical needs and is an avid advocate of, and a generous spender on, bolstering healthcare.

Beijing's grand Healthy China 2030 initiative aims to triple total healthcare expenditure from 2017 to 2030 to $2.5 trillion, and the sheer number and ambition spell heartening news to Ricardo Marek, president of Takeda's growth and emerging markets business unit.

"It presents an opportunity for us as we are set to launch more than 15 innovative medicines and Wave 1 pipelines over the next three to five years," Marek said.

An expert in oncology, rare diseases, gastroenterology, neuroscience and plasma-derived therapies, Japan-based Takeda is placing high hopes on China, which is projected to be the company's second-largest market by fiscal year 2031, thanks to an estimated 20 percent annual growth over the next five years.

"China speed", a term Marek used to refer to China's optimized new drug reviews and accelerated new drug approvals, will be reflected during the CIIE.

For instance, the new drug application of an oral innovative drug for lung cancer was given a priority review designation, leading to simultaneous submissions to National Drug Authority in China and globally. The product will be on display at the fourth CIIE.

"This will enable Takeda's innovative drug to benefit Chinese patients as early as possible," he said.

The CIIE offers a clue to some pioneering medical practices, conducting first-trial experiments and real-world research to help China's medical equipment sector, as is the case of US medical device company Boston Scientific.

For instance, at last year's CIIE, the company debuted a water vapor therapy as a minimally invasive treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Later, the company performed the first such procedure at Hainan Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone-a dedicated area in which preferential policies allow the import of medical devices, technologies and drugs. This product will be officially pre-launched during the fourth CIIE.

Similarly, another product that debuted at the second CIIE for the treatment of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma, has entered into a local partnership in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.

"We benefit from the 'multiplying' and 'acceleration' effects of the CIIE, with several of our previous exhibits turning into tangible products at an expedited speed," said June Chang, president of Boston Scientific China.

"The 'spillover effect' lies more in launching products at a fast pace rather than in mobilizing domestic and international resources to create new opportunities and new models."

Takeda Pharmaceutical staff participate in the 2020 CIIE in Shanghai. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Agreed Elisabeth Staudinger, president of Siemens Healthineers Asia-Pacific, who values the role of the CIIE in strengthening relations with stakeholders to "leverage the medical ecosystem".

"Since the beginning, the platform is and has been an excellent opportunity to introduce Siemens Healthineers, our product range and technologies, to a broader public," she said, adding that several newly developed products and technological innovations in oncological care, tele-healthcare and public health will debut at the upcoming event.

For the German healthcare technologies provider, highlights include displaying the world's first photon-counting computerized tomography or CT, an imaging technology that increases sensitivity and safety in CT examinations and breaks existing barriers of radiation and contrast dose.

At the fair, the company will stage the international debut of a scanner featuring super wide field of view that enables whole-body dynamic scanning within 15 seconds, leaving no cancer cells undetected. A new generation angiography system that delivers more stable and optimal images will also make a premier appearance in China.

The company is also accelerating the deployment of its innovative offerings by capitalizing on the opportunities made possible by the CIIE. The latest-generation interventional robot, a great attraction at the third CIIE, has completed its first procedure in Boao and in July 2021 was granted access to the special review for innovative medical devices by the National Medical Products Administration.

"Within a time frame of less than one year, the product has continuously updated its status in the review and approval process," Staudinger said.

"It promises to bring revolutionary therapies and new hope to patients and become the first imported robot for interventional procedures to be granted market approval in China."

In the healthcare realm, examples abound for the wish that "exhibits turned into merchandise", a goal the CIIE organizers aim to achieve. For pharmaceutical company GSK, this is exemplified by the availability of a shingles vaccine in more than 200 cities in China, after its consecutive presence during the second and third CIIE events.

Also, after its inaugural presence at the third CIIE in 2020, a medicine for the treatment of HIV in China was approved by the National Medical Products Administration in March this year and officially launched in China in June. It will also be showcased officially during this year's expo.

"We look forward to seizing the development opportunities in the Chinese market through this important annual event. We are working with all the stakeholders," said Cecilia Qi, vice-president and general manager of pharma and vaccines for GSK China.

"This will help make medical and healthcare solutions more accurate, accessible and affordable, further benefitting Chinese patients and supporting the 'Healthy China 2030' vision".

For many, the CIIE is a continuum of first of its kind and an avenue to turn ideas into implementation, said Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of pharma producer Boehringer Ingelheim China.

The company sees itself as a witness and beneficiary of the event's spillover effect. Its Total Stroke Solutions has evolved from a conceptual prototype showcased at the inaugural CIIE into the current set of total solutions covering seven modules.

"Overall, the CIIE has very positive effect on the visibility of our clinical programs," Gutsche said. "We've got a lot of attention and feedback from various provincial governments and city governments."