A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Mid-market British private equity group Duke Street said this week that it has completed the acquisition of French medical diagnostics firm Biomnis (Paris) for 1217 million ($271.5 million).

The deal is being financed with senior debt provided by Fortis and a mezzanine facility that is being arranged by AXA Mezzanine.

Biomnis, formerly known as Laboratoire Marcel Merieux, specializes in diagnostic services and pathological analysis in the fields of molecular diagnostics, tissue, fertility treatment and specialized biochemistry.

The acquisition of Biomnis adds to Duke Street's existing healthcare portfolio, which includes dentistry group Oasis Healthcare (Norwich, UK), regional psychiatric hospitals operator Affinity Healthcare (Cheadle, UK) and Paris-based hospital operator Groupe Proclif.

Biomnis CEO Jean-Louis Oger will take up the role of non-executive chairman while Duke Street operating partners Charles Woler and Thierry Paternot will join the board as non-executive directors.

Pierre-Yves Guiavarch, who will assume the role of CEO, will join from Generale de Sante, a large French healthcare provider.

Big order for Siemens in South Korea

Siemens Healthcare (Erlangen, Germany) reported landing a large order in South Korea, with the new Pusan National University Hospital (PNUH) in Yangsan scheduled to receive 44 medical systems from Siemens. The order is valued at $20 million.

The hospital also has signed a service contract with Siemens that includes maintenance and constant remote monitoring of the systems.

The company noted that plans are being made to boost medical care in and around Pusan, whose 3.7 million inhabitants makes it South Korea's second-largest city. In order to accommodate the improvement plan, Pusan National University Hospital is building an additional hospital in Yangsan, a city under development 35 kilometers from Pusan.

For the new hospital complex, Siemens Healthcare will supply the radiology, nuclear medicine, oncology, cardiology and emergency care units with systems including MRI, CT, angiography, X-ray and fluoroscopy, as well as ultrasound units and systems for nuclear medicine and mammography.

PNUH Yangsan will offer more than 1,700 beds and comprise seven specialist hospitals, including a university hospital, a children's hospital, a dental hospital, a hospital for oriental medicine and a pre-medicine school.

Some subsections will admit patients this month, while plans call for the entire hospital complex to open for full operation in 2011.

Long-retention-time contrast agents eyed

Philips Research (Eindhoven, the Netherlands) and the University of Urbino (Urbino, Italy) say they will jointly research the encapsulation of magnetic nanoparticle contrast agents inside living blood cells to prolong the retention time of these agents in the blood.

Injected as free particles, magnetic nanoparticle contrast agents are quickly excreted from the blood via the patient's liver, which limits their application.

Philips said the contrast agent techniques being developed by the University of Urbino are based on magnetic nanoparticles that are captured inside the patient's own red blood cells, where they remain protected from the body's excretion mechanisms for much longer periods – perhaps as long as 120 days, which is the typical lifetime of healthy red blood cells.

The parties said a key feature of the university's technology is that it could allow the preparation of relatively large volumes of contrast agent-loaded blood.

Philips Research said it will take samples of this contrast agent-loaded blood and test its effectiveness in the company's scanners, using its knowledge of the physics involved to optimize the scan parameters.

The collaboration will last for about 2-1/2 years, with expected initial applications in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

During radio frequency (RF) ablation, a catheter is inserted into the patient's heart and the tissue responsible for propagating abnormal electrical signals through the heart muscle is destroyed using heat from a RF field generated at the tip of the catheter.

Philips said encapsulated magnetic nanoparticles injected into a patient's bloodstream could be used to highlight the volume of blood in the different heart chambers during such procedures.

Accord reached on cancer research

InteRNA Technologies (Bilthoven, the Netherlands) and VU University Medical Center (VUmc; Amsterdam, the Netherlands), reported the signing of a framework research agreement to develop microRNA (miRNA)-based diagnostics and therapeutics for cancer using InteRNA's proprietary library of miRNAs.

Under the collaboration, InteRNA will apply its lentiviral-based miRNA overexpression library in multi-parametric, high-throughput screening assays to identify the biological role of individual miRNAs and therapeutic targets in leukemia, colon, prostate, and head and neck cancer.

In addition, diagnostic miRNA profiles will be developed through next-generation sequencing, in combination with InteRNA's small RNA bioinformatics pipeline, miR-Intess, on diverse patient sample sets provided by VUmc.