Chinese assisted human reproductive medium suppliers may embrace more business opportunities as domestic demand rises and supply disruptions crimp imports, industry experts said.
Zeng Pinhong, director of the reproductive medical center at the Chongqing Beibu Maternity Hospital, became anxious as imported assisted reproductive medium stocks at the center may not be able to meet the demand.
“A few days ago, a foreign supplier required us to submit a purchase plan 10 days ahead. Assisted reproductive medium has a short shelf-life. Stocking up is not a wise choice. Therefore, we have to source the product as and when required. However, due to the current epidemic situation, we are afraid of sudden disruptions,” Zeng said.
Assisted reproduction helps women get pregnant using medical assistance.
There are three main types of assisted reproduction. They are artificial insemination, gamete transplantation and in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
An assisted reproductive medium is helpful in achieving pregnancy as it offers an ideal living environment for sperm, eggs and embryos.
Currently, China sources assisted reproductive medium from other countries.
In 1990, the first IVF baby on the Chinese mainland was born.
The National Health Commission said by the end of 2018, there were 498 authorized assisted reproductive institutions in China.
In 2017, China’s assisted reproduction market reached a value of 22.1 billion yuan ($3.1 billion). Between 2013 and 2017, the annual compound growth rate of the market was 17.7 percent, according to the commission.
The subcategory in that market of assisted reproductive medium likewise grew at the same time.
Currently, China imports assisted reproductive medium from overseas suppliers such as Vitrolife in Sweden and United States-based CooperSurgical.
Domestic enterprises started research and development in the field relatively late.
In recent years, domestic firms which include Aivfo in Chengdu, Weihai, Shandong-based Wego, and Vitavitro in Shenzhen, Guangdong province ramped up their efforts in the sector.
So far though, none of them had acquired market access.
Hu Weibin, investment director at Bioventure which is the company that invested in Aivfo, said that before their investment, they had conducted experiments on rats. The result showed that there was not much difference in indices such as the blastocyst, pregnancy, and implantation rates between domestic and foreign assisted reproductive media.
Industry experts noted that the National Medical Products Administration has strict control over assisted reproductive medium, holding that the birth of life is a sacred and delicate process.
Assisted reproduction technology directly affects human germ cells and embryos. As a result, quality control of such products should be stricter than that of ordinary medical devices, they said.
Xiang Xue, a healthcare analyst at Beijing-based think tank Equal-Ocean, said: “The overseas supply shortage may bring opportunities for domestic assisted reproductive medium suppliers. Like what happened to masks and testing kits, if there is a supply shortage in imported assisted reproductive medium, chances are high that the supervision department would open emergency approval or priority approval channels.”
“Assisted reproduction is a big market, with surging market demand. With the implementation of the second-child policy, women who grow old have difficulties in getting pregnant, and may have greater needs,” said Chen Qiaoshan, a healthcare analyst at Beijing-based research consultancy Analysys.
“There are more couples learning about this tech and I think the demand is surging,” said Lu Chen, a 29-year-old media professional in Chuzhou, Anhui province, who became father of twins through IVF at the reproductive center at Jiangsu Province Hospital a year ago.
“We spent 60,000 yuan on IVF. Some of my friends also had the experience, spending 100,000 yuan, or even more,” Lu said.
Hu from Bioventure noted that domestic assisted reproductive medium producers are embracing vast opportunities in the market.
“Currently, the NMPA is already actively referring to international experience and opinions from the industry, to adjust its supervision mechanism to support the localization of assisted reproductive medium. With the introduction of domestic assisted reproductive media, the market value in the sector will be further released,” Xiang said.