Partnerships drive medical breakthroughs in Shanghai
By Xia Yuanyuan  ·  2024-06-05  ·   Source: NO.23 JUNE 6, 2024
Chen Chang, head of the Medical Chip Research Center at Ruijin Hospital, an affiliated hospital of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, introduces the chip used in the hospital’s noninvasive blood glucose detector in Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai on May 24 (XINHUA)

The medical equipment valley in Jiading District of Shanghai, known as Shanghai MedValley, is a powerhouse of medical innovation. As an industrial park centered on creative medical equipment, the valley has gathered a cluster of high-end medical device enterprises and highly qualified professionals. It aims to promote new quality productive forces in the medical field, with a focus on developing devices for advanced diagnosis and highly effective treatment. It is home to seven major research institutions and joint labs, including a medical robot training center and a medical chip research institute.

The concept of new quality productive forces refers to initiatives aimed at enhancing productivity, innovation, sustainability and quality in different sectors of the economy through technological innovation including digital transformation.

Doctors are a major force in medical innovation in the valley. "There are lots of unresolved problems in the medical field, and doctors and nurses are on the frontline of assessing patients' needs," Ning Guang, head of Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai, said. "Eventually, the achievements of the medical industry need to be tested through practice. Therefore, doctors should be given a chance to steer innovation within the industry."

Frontline ideas

The valley's doctor-directed medical innovation model has yielded positive results in recent years.

The non-invasive blood glucose detector developed by Wang Weiqing, Director of the Endocrine and Metabolism Department at Ruijin Hospital, together with a medical chip technology enterprise, has been clinically validated to meet the international standard for glucose detectors.

Niu Chuanxin, a researcher from the Rehabilitation Department of Ruijin Hospital, has collaborated with enterprises within the cognitive rehabilitation field and launched more than 30 products that meet patients' needs with high-level accuracy and flexibility, including a robot that helps patients recover control over their upper limbs.

Chen Saijuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, made breakthroughs in gene-based therapy for hemophilia, a rare disorder that prevents blood from clotting. Previously, patients of the disease had to undergo regular plasma transfusions, and the treatment could be hampered by shortages of plasma. Chen's breakthroughs mean patients now only require one-off or occasional treatments.

The single-port laparoscopic surgical robot jointly developed by Beijing Surgerii Robotics Co. Ltd. and Ruijin Hospital allows for completion of various complex surgeries through a skin incision of less than 3 cm on the patient's abdomen.

"Shanghai MedValley has gathered a large group of doctors with pioneering ideas, who seek to cooperate with enterprises to achieve breakthroughs in medical equipment development and large-scale production, drawing on their clinical experiences," Ning said.

In the past three years, medical staff of Ruijin Hospital have applied for more than 1,000 patents. "We've been thinking about the role of large public hospitals in the development of new quality

productive forces," Ning added. "And our answer is to highlight the non-profit nature of public hospitals, encouraging and cultivating public medical staff as the powerhouse of creative work to further promote the development of medical industries."

The biomedical industry is one of the top three pioneering industries in Shanghai, alongside the integrated circuits and artificial intelligence industries, and a key industry for developing new quality productive forces. The annual scale of the biopharmaceutical industry reached 933.73 billion yuan ($128.68 billion) in 2023, an increase of 4.9 percent, according to a press conference on Shanghai's high-quality development held on May 22.

"The new creative third-category medical equipment developed by institutions in Shanghai accounted for 16.67 percent of those in China," Ge Dongbo, an official from Shanghai, told the press, adding that the local government is stepping up efforts to enhance the mechanisms that benefit creative enterprises and institutions and facilitate the industrialization of creative ideas.

Third-category medical equipment is equipment that could cause significant harm to a person's life or health, such as devices for transplanting artificial organs and cardiac pacemakers, which are under strict supervision and examination by quality inspection agencies.

Advanced domestic technology

Medical innovation is vibrant not only within Shanghai MedValley but also in medical centers in surrounding areas focusing on specialty treatment technologies. The proton therapy center at Ruijin Hospital, located close to MedValley, is renowned for its high-end tumor treatment


Proton therapy is a powerful tool for precision radiotherapy in cancer treatment. It has advantages over traditional radiotherapy technologies in terms of accuracy, therapeutic effects, and harm to patients, making it the most advanced medical technology in the world to combat tumors. In the past, domestic proton treatment relied on imported equipment, leading to high costs and low access to proton therapy in many regions of China.

"Proton therapy equipment is huge in size and has high manufacturing, operating and maintenance costs," Chen Jiayi, head of the Radiotherapy Department of Ruijin Hospital, said. "If we simply relied on imported equipment instead of mastering the core technology for producing the equipment by ourselves, it would be difficult to reduce the costs (for patients)."

"In the past, the cost of proton therapy was about 300,000 yuan ($41,345)—too heavy a financial burden for many patients. As a result, many patients for whom proton therapy was suitable chose to undergo X-ray therapy instead," Chen Jiayi added.

In December 2014, the building for housing domestic proton devices at the north campus of Ruijin Hospital started to be constructed.

As soon as the construction of the proton device building began, Ruijin Hospital formed a qualified team including physicians, technicians, physicists, researchers, and other personnel, to overcome difficulties the project faced.

Ruijin Hospital worked with the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics and Shanghai Advanced Research Institute, both under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as Shanghai APACTRON Particle Equipment Co. Ltd., to jointly develop domestically produced proton therapy systems.

On November 24, 2023, the first domestically produced proton therapy test device, in the 180-degree rotation beam therapy room, was put into use. As of March this year, the number of patients receiving proton therapy had reached 100. So far, the proton therapy device at Ruijin Hospital has treated patients for more than 20 different types of tumors and all patients have shown ideal short-term results.

The 360-degree proton therapy system, a more advanced device, developed by Ruijin Hospital and Shanghai APACTRON Particle Equipment Co. Ltd., is expected to be put into clinical use this year. The 360-degree rotating frame can provide an all-around treatment angle to strike the tumor target area and protect surrounding normal tissues without moving the patient. The domestic proton therapy system currently costs a maximum of 170,000 yuan ($23,429) per course of treatments.

According to Chen Jiayi, in addition to making significant breakthroughs in hardware, the proton therapy personnel are consistently exploring and enriching, through trial and error, their experience in proton treatment, aiming to independently develop an optimized proton therapy plan.

"We have developed a meticulous set of technology and management solutions that can be directly packaged and applied to any hospital in the country," she said.

(Reporting from Shanghai)

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

Comments to

China Focus
Special Reports
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise with Us
Partners:   |   China Today   |   China Hoy   |   China Pictorial   |   People's Daily Online   |   Women of China   |   Xinhua News Agency
China Daily   |   CGTN   |   China Tibet Online   |   China Radio International   |   Global Times   |   Qiushi Journal
Copyright Beijing Review All rights reserved 京ICP备08005356号 京公网安备110102005860