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October 18, 2021

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Founder of biotech company makes the cut

With both a military and medical service background, Wu Jianying, one of the founders of Haohai Biological Technology, displays decisive and keen characteristics.

The 57-year-old also has a fine sense of humor, highlighted by self-mockery.

Listening to how he developed the Songjiang-based Haohai Biological Technology, which now is a leading company focused on research and development, manufacturing and sales of biomedical materials, one cannot help but be impressed by his courage and business sense.

The company targets the fast-growing therapeutic field in the biomedical materials market including ophthalmology, medical aesthetics and wound healing, orthopedics, and anti-adhesion and hemostasis.

If Wu had not made the choice to launch the company 20 years ago, he would still be a general surgeon.

“I was admitted to the Naval Medical University in Yangzhou City in Jiangsu Province in 1983,” he told Shanghai Daily, “so I obtained the double identity – a military doctor.”

After finishing his master’s study at the university in 1989, he spent 10 years as a general surgeon at Shanghai’s Changzheng Hospital.

“I was one of the first of general surgeons in China who learnt about liver transplant surgery,” he recalled.

The team he was with experimented on mice and pigs till they were ready for the nation’s first successful human transplant on child.

“I have participated in the longest-surviving liver transplant surgery in our country so far.”

“Cure diseases and save people” used to be his simplest wish.

“As a medical worker, as long as you work hard and persist, you will surely make progress in the end despite all the difficulties,” he said.

On the front line of medical diagnosis and treatment, Wu got to know patients and their families face to face. He and his colleagues witnessed too much tragedies.

Due to technical barriers, many domestic biomedical product markets were monopolized by overseas enterprises for a long time.

Sometimes, patients needed to pay high prices for biomedical products, such as intraocular lens, a special lens made of synthetic materials, which can help cataract patients with their eyesight.

About 10 to 20 years ago, an imported intraocular lens cost 15,000 yuan (US$2,328) to 30,000 yuan. The high price prevented many patients from having surgery in China.

“If you work as a doctor, you may be able to treat one patient after another,” he said. “But if you can solve the problem from the source, you can benefit groups of people in need.”

With the desire to revitalize the development of the domestic biopharmaceutical industry and to bring a better life to families, he began to venture into the business world in 1999.

“It was really difficult at the beginning, a doctor doing business is really under a lot of pressure,” Wu recalled. “I was a medicine sales representative with only 1,200 yuan each month.”

However, the difficulties did not stop him. He then joined a stated-owned company to learn corporate finance.

In a field he had never set foot in, Wu worked hard, figuring out his way, which also laid a solid foundation for later entrepreneurs. In 2007, Wu and his team merged and acquired three old stated-owned companies which used to develop, produce and sell medical sodium hyaluronate, forming the foundation of today’s Haohai Biological Technology.

“Only by forming a joint force can we show a strategic advantage in the competition with foreign companies,” he said.

In addition to the support from the Songjiang District government, Wu invested almost everything he had on the company.

“I sold two of my apartments for the company,” he said.

The move proved far-sighted. After the merger, the company achieved profitability in its second year.

Advanced technology is the other reason for the company’s success.

He believes R&D is the driving force behind long-term competitiveness, as well as future growth and development.

There are currently more than 200 R&D professionals working for the company.

Since 2017, the company has been included in the list of National Enterprise Technology Centers, and owned one national postdoctoral R&D workstation and one city-level academician expert workstation.

More than 40 invention patents have been achieved by the company for the last 14 years.

Now, based on the sales volume of intraocular lens and the number of national cataract surgery cases, the company has captured about 30 percent of the IOL market in China.

The market share of the company’s orthopedics viscosupplementation products, ophthalmic viscoelastic device, and anti-adhesion products was 43.30 percent, 45.24 percent and 29.90 percent, respectively, according to its website.

A successful entrepreneur aside, Wu also has a zest for life. He and his old comrades in arms have formed a choir. “We spent some time singing together to recall the past,” he said, with a big smile.


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