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CEO aims to break foreign monopoly on medical tech

Updated: 2013-06-09 10:20
(China Daily)
CEO aims to break foreign monopoly on medical tech
Zou Xueming, chairman of AllTech Medical Systems. Zou Hong / China Daily

Zou Xueming, chairman of AllTech Medical Systems, is a household name to many people in Chengdu as well as those in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance worldwide.

He was one of the first 100 graduate students sent by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the 1980s to the US and later acquired a doctorate degree in nuclear magnetic resonance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990.

He was 31 when he became the first Chinese scientist to hold a doctorate in the field.

Then he joined Picker International, which has since been acquired by the healthcare branch of Philips. He worked as senior engineer for the US company, which was a top provider of magnetic resonance equipment.

Headquartered in Chengdu, AllTech is not Zou's first business.

In 1993, he left Picker with his core business team and established an independent company-USA Instrument.

During this period, European and US bureaus awarded him 33 patents in the field of magnetic resonance technology. For two consecutive years, Zou was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, a prestigious honor established in 1986 that now recognizes businesspeople in 111 cities in 35 countries.

After the General Electric Company acquired USA Instrument for $40 million at the end of 2002, Zou joined GE as the deputy president of medical operations.

In 2003, Zou was sent back to China to oversee GE's magnetic resonance business. Over time he became dissatisfied working for an international corporation and again set out to start his own business.

"The technology of nuclear magnetic resonance can directly reflect a country's power because it's a comprehensive technology," he said.

"You have to be outstanding in every related field before being a leader in the industry," he said.

Second company

In 2004, Zou resigned from GE. Almost at the same time, he selected 13 experts from European countries and the US research ideal locations in China for starting a second company.

The search turned up a few suitable candidates - the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area, Shanghai Zhangjiang High-Tech Park and the Chengdu High-Tech Area.

Chengdu won in the end because of its cost advantages.

Zou said he was drawn to the city by its relatively cheap land, lower taxes as well as plentiful human resources willing to work for competitive salaries. The high-tech area approved 6.8 hectares of land to lease to him for construction. To date, he has only used half.

The strong foundation that the industry has in China and its future potential are what convinced him to return, he said

In 2005, AllTech Medical Systems was established. It mainly provides nuclear magnetic resonance facilities to mid-sized companies. In clinical diagnosis, the facilities can detect certain changes in the soft tissue of humans and the central nervous system without exposure to radioactivity.

Zou said AllTech is the first company of its kind in Asia and fourth in the world, following in the footsteps of such multinational giants as Siemens, GE and Philips.

He said before AllTech entered, the nuclear magnetic resonance market was monopolized by developed countries like the US, Holland and Germany for some 25 years.

Although 80 percent of the market in China is still occupied by European and US titans, AllTech has helped spur the development of the industry in the country, Zou noted.

Currently, AllTech's nuclear magnetic resonance equipment is being used in one of China's largest and most authoritative hospitals, the PLA General Hospital. Its machine is the only one of the 13 owned by the hospital that is produced domestically.

Now, AllTech has a highly international R&D team. About 12 to 15 percent of its 80-member local research team consists of foreign experts.

It also has an R&D center in Cleveland, and more than 20 overseas experts are working there.

The R&D team in Chengdu was recognized by the Sichuan provincial Party committee's publicity department as the best in 2011.

He told reporters that no high-level executives in the company have left since the establishment of AllTech.

In the past three years, AllTech has installed 100 sets of nuclear magnetic resonance equipment across the world. Its mainstream product has a 10 percent market share in China.

Vision, mission

China's medical market is rather mature, Zou said. As a result, hospitals in the country are looking for good products.

Nowadays China's nuclear magnetic resonance technology mainly lags behind that of Europe and the US in terms of brand building, he added.

He went on to say that European and US products are used not only in medical diagnostics but also in scientific research.

He said he hopes the government will give more support to the strategic emerging industries in the country in the future.

Zou said he believes AllTech can help lower equipment and maintenance prices in the field.

He also aspires to propel the country's reform in purchasing and using big medical care equipment.

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