With 127 million diabetic adults in China alone—almost a quarter of the global diabetic population—the country’s experience with the diabetes epidemic has become a health disaster. To begin filling the need for tailored solutions, last year Chinese pharmaceutical giant Hunan China Sun paid $2 million for a 20% stake in Glucovation, a San Diego-based life science SME developing an innovative continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system for Chinese diabetics. Following the recent signing of a $12.5 million licensing and development agreement between the two companies, a China-based joint venture began pre-clinical human trials of Glucovation technology in February. We caught up with Glucovation executive vice president Fernando Corona to discuss the company and its China focus.
MedicalExpo e-magazine: Can you tell us a little about Glucovation and what the company is currently working on?
Fernando Corona: Glucovation was founded in May 2013 by three ex-Dexcom (another California-based CGM company) employees. We are currently developing a minimally invasive, low-cost CGM system that is factory calibrated (no daily finger sticks) for use in price-sensitive markets such as China.
Our system uses a microneedle that is painless to insert, and which can be left in the abdomen or an arm for up to 10 days without discomfort. It samples interstitial fluid, in which the level of blood glucose correlates well to that of blood itself. The sensor we’re developing is non-enzymatic—its electrochemical properties achieve performance levels that have never been seen in the CGM space before. Anyone affected with Type 1, Type 2 or pre-diabetes will be able to monitor their glycemic levels using the device.
ME e-mag: How important is the Chinese market for Glucovation?
Fernando Corona: Very important. China is the second largest diabetic market (with 127 million Type 1 and 2 diabetics) in the world behind India. Dexcom will generate over $550 million in sales in 2017, with most of their revenue based on a diabetic population of just 29 million in the United States. This gives you an idea of the enormous potential of the Chinese market.
ME e-mag: Why partner with a Chinese company?
Fernando Corona: Finding funding for a product like ours was a lot easier outside the United States. Most investment-focused Western companies are looking for technologies that are further along the development process, with a lot of evidential data to support claims. We also felt that our product needed to be a locally manufactured product specifically targeting the Chinese market. If the product is developed in China and has not entered any regulatory process outside of China, it’s a lot easier to obtain regulatory approval.
ME e-mag: Do you have any advice for other life science SMEs looking to enter the Chinese market?
Fernando Corona: Partner, partner, partner. Make sure you understand the culture and negotiation process and be patient.