Father and son help 10,000 people regain hearing
Editor's note: East China's Zhejiang province is renowned for its large international population. Aloft on the wings of China's reform and opening-up policy, a group of Zhejiang people have gone abroad to make a living since the 1970s. As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the policy, the Zhejiang website (www.ezhejiang.gov.cn) is launching a series of stories about overseas Chinese who are originally from Zhejiang, as well as those who are active in the province's development. Stories courtesy of Zhejiang Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese and Zheshang Magazine
Li Chu (L) and Li Fangping (R) pose for a photo in a laboratory in Nurotron's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo/zjol.com.cn]
Li Chu, 39, and Li Fangping, 63, from Wenzhou, Zheijang province are not just father and son: They are also business partners jointly running China's first medical device company which provides low-cost implants to help people of all ages regain their hearing.
Their company Nurotron Biotechnology, which is based in Zhejiang's capital city Hangzhou, has so far helped more than 10,000 people overcome the sound of silence with its flagship product: The Venus Cochlear Implant System.
Before shifting to high-end manufacturing, Li Fangping had already enjoyed a successful career as a real estate developer. His son Li Chu had spent years working in international business development for his uncle's electric appliance company after graduating from University of Concordia, Canada.
Fangping was inspired to launch his new venture thirteen years ago, after a chance conversation with some US-based Chinese scientists, who told him that there were over 27 million people with hearing impairments in China.
According to the scientists—Zeng Fangang, former chairman of the international electronic cochlear summit, and Fu Qianjie, director of the auditory neuroscience department at the US House Ear Institute—as many as 3 million of those suffering from impairments could regain their hearing with the help of artificial cochlear implant devices, but these products were only made in countries like the US and Australia and were very expensive.
Fangping realized that a business selling these implants could make considerable profits and could make a difference to these people's lives. So in 2006, he and his son started a company to develop China's own cochlear implant system. They set up a research and development center in Irvine, California and manufacturing facilities in Hangzhou.