Theraclion is a French focused ultrasound manufacturer that has been successful in launching its treatment platforms to target varicose veins and tumors of the thyroid in Europe. The company is now making a strategic business decision to enter the Asian market and is beginning to make a significant impact in Hong Kong.
In the following blog post, Theraclion’s CEO, David Caumartin, describes the strategy behind expanding the company’s varicose vein treatment system, Sonovein, into Asia.
Theraclion’s EchoPulse system is also being used in Hong Kong to treat thyroid tumors (see a physician profile with Professor Brian Lang and a patient story featuring Ms. Leung who was treated for thyroid nodules).
Ultrasound Therapies in Asia
In 2017, when Theraclion decided to refocus and pivot toward the treatment of varicose veins, we recognized the unmet need that existed in Shenzhen, China (which is about 30 miles from Hong Kong). We realized that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Hong Kong to create a path for future expansion in the region.
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives from the company were traveling to Hong Kong two to four times a year. Of course, the global climate required us to pause those trips, but I have spoken virtually at several conferences in Hong Kong in the last couple of years. We are eager to resume travel to Hong Kong so that we can continue to accelerate our business there.
We have been warmly received overall, and users are eager to be able to offer our treatment systems, primarily because they are noninvasive and ultrasound guided. In Asia, ultrasound has been adopted much earlier in a much larger scale than on other continents. Many people I’ve encountered understand ultrasound and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), so I find that I don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining the technology.
Hong Kong Recognizes the European CE Mark
One of the reasons that Hong Kong is a good entry point to the Chinese market is that the health authority in Hong Kong temporarily accepts devices with the CE Mark. The rest of China requires approval from its National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), which necessitates a new clinical study.
Therefore, companies that have CE-Marked devices can gain a foothold in the region by starting out in Hong Kong. Physicians can get comfortable with performing the procedure, patients can benefit from the noninvasive treatment, and companies can validate their assumptions from a workflow and performance standpoint with minimal cost. These data can then be used as a proxy to go into China.
Treating Varicose Veins in Hong Kong
Varicose vein treatment is of high importance in Asia, where many cases are treated each year. The prevalence of the condition is significantly growing in China as BMI measurements and sedentary lifestyles increase.
Our Sonovein device is the first and only robotic solution for the noninvasive echotherapy treatment of varicose veins, and it is especially useful for patients with open or healed ulcers because it avoids the risks of open surgery. There are very few therapeutic options for this group.
We have begun a clinical study for these complicated cases at Kowloon Public Hospital in Hong Kong, where patients can experience a wait time of more than two years to receive surgery for an ulcer or a complicated superficial vein disease. Ten participants have been treated in the trial, which will continue forward with our new, second-generation Sonovein platform. Its ultrasound generator delivers HIFU at a speed that is 10 times faster than our previous system.
The principal investigator for the clinical trial, Wong Wai Chun, MD, is a vascular surgeon at Kowloon Public Hospital. He is an experienced physician known for introducing new cardiovascular techniques. Our new system will allow him to treat the backlog of patients and decrease the potential for side effects.
Based on the results this initial study, we plan to reach out to more research sites, including those in private practices. We are also exploring using a mobile approach where one system would cover several sites by physically moving the device. This is something that we have adopted in Europe for veins, and the idea is to use the system as a recurrent revenue scheme versus selling a system to each site.
Gaining the trust of investors and strategic partners is important in Asia. We have been approached by Chinese cardiovascular device sales groups and a private group of clinics that provide vascular surgery, and we look forward to those conversations. They are eager to find a disruptive solution for dealing with varicose veins. The increased incidence of people with untreated ulcers is costly and, I’m sure, a burden to the healthcare systems in China.
Looking Ahead to Expansion Across China
When I last left Hong Kong in late 2019, we were planning to launch the varicose vein clinical study but had not yet begun developing options for private practice. We are now simultaneously developing our business in Singapore and finding success with private office surgical treatment. We recognize that Hong Kong will also be a great place for this type of business model.
Theraclion currently has two employees in Hong Kong: Dennis Guo, our General Manager, and Edward Yip, our Regional Marketing and Application Specialist. Beyond their individual responsibilities, both have excellent skills in distributor management.
As we look to the future, establishing a successful market in Hong Kong with both our thyroid and vein systems will be an invaluable step for the company. We will be able to offer patients a safe and precise treatment option while also using the experience and lessons learned to propel the business into China and other Asian regions.