Icon to export cancer know-how to China

The Icon and Sanbo teams

Australian medical expertise continues to trickle to China. In the latest such venture, Icon Group, the country’s largest provider of cancer care, has signed an agreement with China’s Sanbo Brain Hospital Management to deliver radiation oncology services.

It was always a matter of when. After plans for an IPO fell flat, Quadrant Private Equity sold Icon Group for a reported US$740 million in June 2017 to Chinese private equity firm Pagoda Investment together with Goldman Sachs and the Australian state pension fund Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC).

“Pagoda’s seasoned and experienced investment team knows well how to work with local businesses to bring them internationally,” said James Ieong, managing partner of Pagoda Investments at the time. “We see opportunities for Icon in Asia and China in particular. We’re well placed to assist Icon with this growth.”

There was a sharp decline last year in Chinese investment in Australia on increasingly vocal political concerns that it is selling off the family silver. A$40.4 billion (US$28.3 billion) Chinese money has come into the country over the past four years according to leading business title Australian Financial Review. But know-how is still flowing the other way.

Sanbo is a group of Chinese hospitals that specialises in neurological services, including treatments for brain cancer. The agreement will see Icon operate the Chang’an Chongqing centre, with the site already in initial stages of development.

Icon will manage the facility.

“The collaboration with Icon Group will increase Sanbo’s capacity in radiation therapy and chemotherapy, improve comprehensive cancer treatment, and provide an exceptional service to patients,” said Sanbo general manager, Yang Zhang.

The cornerstone of this relationship is the exportation of Australian radiation therapy expertise, including remote radiation therapy planning. Icon’s centralised remote planning function, performed by a specialist workforce of radiation therapists.

This centre is the first of what Icon says will be many. Further agreements are in various stages of completion, it said.