By Liu Heng, Li Hanwen, Suzhou, China
In early September, the 11th summit of G20 leaders was held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and technology cooperation and exchange among G20 countries became the highlight of the internationally anticipated meeting. J-Valve heart valve technology in the medical field is expected to be the representative project of China's science and technology sector for technology exchange among G20 countries, according to the People's Daily Minsheng Weekly.
Zhang Ji, the inventor of J-Valve technology and the founder, chairman and CEO of Suzhou Jie Cheng Medical Technology Co. I think this is a very gratifying thing." He said.
Contributing to technology exchange among G20 countries
Born into a family of doctors and with almost all of his relatives being doctors, Zhang Ji wanted to be an engineer but was ordered by his parents to study medicine. He was on the operating table before the age of 28 and later went abroad for further studies. In clinical practice, he always wanted to innovate, and around 2000, he discovered the field of interventional valves as a direction to combine medicine and mechanics and dove head first into it.
Currently, relying on the J-Valve valve replacement system he invented, he has achieved excellent clinical results in treating aortic stenosis and valve closure insufficiency. Moreover, the procedure does not require opening the chest for extracorporeal circulation, but only a small hole between the ribs to implant the valve through a catheter.
J-Valve technology has initially formed a new treatment standard in the field of valve surgery in China, and according to clinical practice, aortic valve replacement using J-Valve technology takes only 7-10 minutes. It is worth mentioning that the clinical trial subjects were all high-risk, elderly patients, with an average age of 74 years or more and a maximum age of 87 years. These elderly, critically ill patients had a high surgical success rate and a good postoperative recovery.
Since early 2014, the J-Valve Valve Replacement System has been conducting clinical trials in three large and well-known hospitals in China: West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Zhongshan Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, and Fu Wai Cardiovascular Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. To date, more than 100 clinical trials have been successfully completed.
The Chinese clinical cases were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), the world's leading cardiology research journal where only large, clinically significant studies can be published.
This was an important reason for Canada's "special permission" to perform the first surgery using a medical product from China.
In February 2016, St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada's largest cardiac surgery center, successfully performed a minimally invasive heart valve replacement for a patient with severe aortic insufficiency. He was operated on by Canadian medical staff, and the medical device used was "specially approved" from China - Zhang Ji's entrepreneurial research and development team.
The operation, which used to take several hours or even more than ten hours, was successfully completed in a "minute-long" time. The patient was up and eating within 3 hours of surgery. Hospital follow-ups to date show that the patient is recovering well.
On February 19, 2016, the Chinese Consul General in Vancouver, Liu Fei, met with Zhang Ji as soon as the news of the successful surgery broke. Zhang Ji introduced the surgery and the features of the J-Valve system to Liu Fei, and especially emphasized that this is an innovative product with all Chinese independent intellectual property rights, which was applied to overseas patients for the first time and was successful, opening a new way for China's independent innovative medical devices to go international.
"This is the first time that China's independent intellectual property rights medical technology has entered a developed country." Liu Fei, Chinese Consul General in Vancouver, said in an interview with the media. Liu Fei expressed encouragement and support for promoting bilateral science and technology cooperation between China and Canada.
As the G20 summit was about to be held, after learning that J-Valve heart valve technology was expected to be a representative project for technology exchange among G20 countries, Zhang Ji calmly said, "As a young startup that can stand out in the medical field where giants are gathered, J-Valve heart valve technology is expected to be presented as a representative project in front of G20 countries. We feel very gratified!"
"For J-Valve technology, it has already made several appearances on the international stage and has already attracted high attention in the global cardiac medical field. These are all encouragements to us, and our mission is to cure patients and save as many patients as possible in the fastest time." Zhang Ji has always taken "saving lives" to heart.
Doing great things with less money, using technology to promote the process of medical reform
Financial Network: What is the current development and promotion of J-Valve technology?
Zhang Ji: Valve replacement technology has been relatively mature since the 1960s and 1970s, but the biggest problem with surgical replacement of artificial heart valves is that it requires open chest and extracorporeal circulation. It so happens that some of the patients who need this surgery are severe heart failure patients and elderly patients, and most of them cannot afford this type of surgery.
The J-Valve minimally invasive valve replacement technology has brought Chinese manufacturing and independent research and development capabilities to the top of the world, and has led Chinese medical devices to the top of the world. Whereas valve implantation used to take hours for heart patients, it only takes minutes with J-Valve technology.
J-Valve technology has completed more than one hundred clinical trials in China. Four procedures have been performed in Canada, and the patients have recovered so well that the Canadian government has approved additional patients for the J-Valve minimally invasive valve. Meanwhile, cardiologists in Germany, Italy, Singapore and other developed countries have also applied to use J-Valve minimally invasive valves, and J-Valve technology is gradually spreading worldwide.
Financial Network: Why do you think J-Valve technology can promote medical system reform?
Zhang Ji: Health insurance budgets are limited in countries around the world, yet patients are often increasing. Heart failure is currently the number one cause of mortality worldwide, and once it develops it consumes many medical resources. Traditional open-heart surgery is risky and ineffective. However, without surgery, patients have high annual costs for conservative treatment, which can be costly over several years. A significant portion of this cost is a financial burden. Now there are more advanced technologies that can reduce the burden on patients and the country.
APPLE in medical field
Financial Network: You have been in Canada for 25 years and have already made a name for yourself, why did you choose to return to China to start your own business?
Zhang Ji: I stayed in Canada because I was able to learn more skills there and better utilize my abilities. Now I am back to China to start my own business, I mainly think this is something that is beneficial to patients. Now there is a very good entrepreneurial environment in China and strong support from government departments at all levels, so Chinese patients will benefit more easily.
Personally, I think that we should cherish the life of every person, no matter who they are. From a doctor's point of view, if we invent a technology that can cure people and reduce the limitations of medical technology, we can save more people. The J-Valve technology solves this problem, and these patients can live for many more years.
Financial Network: What difficulties have you encountered in these years of technological innovation?
Zhang Ji: We started as a three-person partnership, with only two technicians and one administrator recruited at the beginning. At present, our team has grown to 50-60 people and we are able to complete our tasks efficiently and on time and on budget.
There are not many innovative medical device companies in China yet, and talent needs to be cultivated by ourselves. The people in our general positions are progressing very fast, for example, none of them had sewn valves in the past, but now they are very stable and of very good quality after they mastered the technology. Many people think that the quality of Apple phone is the best, I want to make this interventional valve of ours into APPLE (Apple) in the medical field.
Our interventional heart valve technology is now in its sixth generation, but in fact the technology is endless, we always feel that we have to continue to perfect it and think of further improvement in every detail. Every link and every detail is done according to the standard specification, and the quality is strictly controlled, so that we can keep the clinical effect stable and reliable.
Financial Network: In these years, the company has been in the stage of subconscious investment in R&D. The company has no income yet, right?
Zhang Ji: The company has been investing heavily in R&D for nearly 7 years. Although the company has no revenue yet, we have been making significant progress every now and then, which is the biggest encouragement to developers and investors. For example, our experimental results in the animal testing phase were perfect, and the patient results in the clinical trials were in line with our expectation ...... every step of the way makes everyone feel confident.
I believe that all people have their own mission, and perhaps my mission is to use my hands and brain to provide a new method and means for the treatment of heart disease in humans. After studying medicine all my life, I was able to invent a piece of technology that would be beneficial to patients, which could revolutionize the treatment of a disease. I want to make this a success and do the best I can.
We are very grateful for the trust that our patients have given us. At the same time, we put patient safety as a priority in our clinical trials and take full account of patient safety and security from a technical standpoint.
Bringing J-Valve technology to the world
Finance.com: How did you first think of inventing J-Valve?
Zhang Ji: One of my biggest headaches and the last thing I want to say to patients is, "We don't have the ability to treat your disease," which is actually a very big blow to patients. Especially once many elderly people have aortic valve disease and can't afford extracorporeal circulation, they used to have to go home. That was the original impetus for my initial invention of the J-Valve technology.
I still had some time to do clinical work around 1999, when interventional valves were just starting to be studied by companies. I was also involved in those studies early on, but felt that the design didn't quite make sense at the time. My original idea was to make a system where the implantable device would automatically put the valve into the person, that is, automatically do the aortic valve replacement without relying on too much subjective experience of the physician. Some devices rely on the doctor to aim, but a tired doctor or unclear images can result in a high rate of aiming errors.
I made a prototype of the J-Valve valve through many fumbling and trials. With the investment, the technology was further developed into the current J-Valve valve replacement system.
Finance.com: What are the main differences between the J-Valve technology and existing technologies in other countries?
Zhang Ji: The main difference is that the design of the J-Valve Valve Replacement System is more in line with the human anatomy and solves the key aspects of valve positioning and valve fixation, making the operation easier for the surgeon and the procedure more secure and smooth, thus improving the efficacy, reducing the risk and minimizing the side effects. In addition, the J-Valve System has a broader scope of application: the J-Valve System not only treats aortic valve stenosis, but also effectively treats aortic valve insufficiency, whereas other interventional valves can only treat valve stenosis, but not valve insufficiency reliably and effectively.