A Medical Device Daily

Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) has established a research collaboration with Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Munich, Germany), described as the largest organization for applied research in Europe.

Under the agreement, the Johns Hopkins-Fraunhofer Initiative for Innovations in Interventional Medicine will bring together researchers from the university's School of Medicine and Whiting School of Engineering with biomedical engineers at Fraunhofer to develop new minimally invasive surgical tools.

"This agreement provides a wonderful opportunity for researchers from the two institutions to work together to develop important new medical tools and move them out of the lab and into applications where they can help patients," said Kristina Johnson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins. "Joining Johns Hopkins' expertise in basic research with Fraunhofer's skills in applied technology should result in a very productive international partnership."

The initial phase of the collaboration, lasting 15 months, will focus on three projects: the development of a computer-aided endoscopy tool that can help diagnose gastrointestinal disease, a laparoscopic surgery tool that will align pre-operative CT scans during surgery, and a new system that will be used to track endoscopes and surgical tools during medical procedures.

"Although this collaboration will initially focus on these three specific projects, we expect that the underlying technology developed can be applied to a broad spectrum of interventional and diagnostic medicine," says Elliot McVeigh, professor and director of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins. "Perhaps more importantly, the goal of this joint effort is to develop a long-term working relationship with teams of engineers at Fraunhofer that will bring new medical technologies into practice more rapidly."

Shamir buys remaining 49%

Shamir Optical Industry (Kibbutz Shamir, Israel), a provider of products to the optical lens market, has purchased the remaining 49% of Altra Trading (Frankfurt, Germany) from its minority shareholder.

Altra is a distributor and holding company through which Shamir holds all of its European subsidiaries, and through which it markets and sells its products. Sales through Altra accounted for roughly 56% of Shamir's total sales in 2007.

The German-based firm has subsidiaries in Portugal, Spain, France, Turkey and the UK.

Prior to the transaction, Shamir held 51% of the share capital of Altra, and upon consummation of the transaction, Altra became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Israeli firm.

Under the purchase agreement, Shamir will pay an amount derived from Altra's consolidated net profit for the fiscal years ending Dec. 31, 2008, 2009 and 2010, not to exceed the total amount of €500,000.

In addition, Shamir has guaranteed the repayment by Altra of the loans it received from the minority shareholder over time, as well as the interest on those loans. The loans will be repaid in several payments to commence on the date of the closing of the transaction, with the final payment to be paid on June 30, 2011.

Eyal Hayardeny, CEO of Shamir, said, "I am pleased to announce the completion of this important transaction. We are confident that it will enable us to better control and manage our European operations. Shamir is committed to increasing its footprint in Europe and it continues to make appropriate investments in leadership, marketing and sales."

Shamir manufactures progressive lenses to sell to the ophthalmic market, and also provides design services to optical lens manufacturers under service and royalty agreements. Its lenses are marketed under a variety of trade names, including Shamir Genesis, Shamir Piccolo, Shamir Office, Shamir Smart and Shamir Autograph.

Two new RPP contracts for EDAP

EDAP TMS (Lyon, France), a maker of therapeutic ultrasound technology, said it has entered into two new revenue-per-procedure (RPP) contracts in Germany with St. Barbara Hospital (Gladbeck) and the University of Heidelberg's Urology Clinic.

EDAP said St. Barbara Hospital "has a history of commitment to exceptional patient care and cutting-edge research for the treatment of prostate cancer. An initial HIFU trial session and workshop held in February of this year gave urologists at the ... center the opportunity to assess [the] Ablatherm technology and its robotized approach and evaluate patient benefits in comparison to more invasive treatment procedures."

The company said initial feedback from the site "positions Ablatherm-HIFU as a clinically proven choice for the treatment of localized prostate cancer as the number of procedures has continued to grow at the center."

A longer term RPP contract with the Heidelberg clinic took effect July 1. EDAP said the center's decision to sign the contract "was based on a successful four-month trial period, which convinced urologists at the clinic of the unique clinical superiority and ease of use associated with the Ablatherm device."

Dr. Sascha Pahernik, consultant at the Heidelberg clinic, said, "HIFU has the potential to become an important and viable treatment option for the treatment of localized prostate cancer due to the growing number of cases diagnosed each year."

Judith Johannsen, general manager of EDAP GmbH in Germany, said, "The recent [peer reviewed] article from the French Association of Urology that positioned HIFU as a standard of care for the treatment of prostate cancer was widely distributed to help increase awareness of this proven technology among current and potential users in Germany."

Australian launch for DxS kit

DxS (Manchester, UK), a personalized medicine company and developer of companion diagnostics, reported the launch of its K-RAS cancer mutation detection kit in Australia.

The TheraScreen K-RAS kit allows clinicians to screen patients for mutations in the K-RAS gene, which correlates with poor prognosis if patients are treated with a class of drugs called EGFR inhibitors. The gene is mutated in 35% to 45% of metastatic colorectal cancer as well as a variety of other cancers.

The company said that by using TheraScreen, clinicians will be able to determine which patients will not respond to targeted cancer therapies such as Amgen's (Thousand Oaks, California) Vectibix and ImClone Systems' (New York) Erbitux.