Diagnostics & Imaging Week and Staff Reports

Definiens (Munich, Germany/Morristown, New Jersey) has launched a multi-dimensional image analysis platform, called Definiens XD, capable of extracting previously unattainable levels of intelligence from digitized medical data.

The company earns half of its revenue from licenses and application in North America, primarily for advanced analysis of cellular activity for life sciences research, but said the launch of the XD platform marks a milestone in entering the medical imaging market.

Definiens software provides automated comparison of data captured over time by different imaging modalities.

To this point the company has commercialized a 2-D analysis platform and with the XD version will apply comparisons for volumetric measurement to 3-Dl structures, calling it "the most challenging but most accurate way of measuring structures of interest, including various lesions in the human body."

Tracking of cells in three dimensions over time, a fourth dimension, provides insight from data into morphology and structure.

The challenge the company has been wrestling with since the 2000 launch of its 2-D image analysis software has been the data volume, which for a single image can easily reach gigabyte levels.

"A 2-D snapshot might give you 250,000 data points," product marketing manager Nick Arini told Diagnostics & Imaging Week. "A 4-D view of the same cells can provide 500 million data points. We provide the technology that can analyze the enormous amounts of data involved with quantitative and repeatable measurements."

Definiens XD is built on the company's Cognition Network Technology, developed by the Nobel Laureate for Physics, Gerd Binnig, to emulate human cognitive processes — and uses objects' color, shape and size, as well as their specific context and relationships, for comparative analysis.

Definiens differentiates itself from pixel-based and model-based matching technologies with a capability to recognize groups of pixels as objects, and then pick out shapes, colors and textures.

The XD software examines objects contextually, interpreting scale, overlapping objects and the relationship of 2-D images to 3-D shapes.

Noting the trend toward combinations of medical imaging techniques that create a complex mix of data, Wolfgang Rencken, executive vice president, technology and products at Definiens, said he sees opportunity in automating analysis of medical imaging data for screening, treatment planning and staging, and computer-aided detection (CAD) applications.

He said the XD software is "future-proof," as it already is capable of integrating data from emerging medical imaging technologies such as confocal endo-microscopy and fluorescence imaging, as well as kinetic and chemotactic assays.

Definiens is now developing expansion modules for the software with CAD applications for medical professionals.

In 2006, Definiens established a collaboration with Pfizer (New York) for eCognition, a hyper-spectral platform for image analysis to accommodate future innovations in imaging dyes and hardware.

Earlier this year Definiens announced installations with the French pharmaceutical company Servier (Neuilly-sur-Seine) and the Discovery Research facilities at Suresnes and at Croissy-sur-Seine that specialized in brain disease, cardiovascular conditions, neuropsychopharmacology and oncology.

Swiss-U.S. group tops bidding for clinics

Two years after selling the family biotechnology business Serono to the Germany-based Merck pharmaceuticals firm for almost 17 billion ($8.4 billion, 2006), the Swiss-Italian billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli has returned to medical investing with the acquisition of Euromedic (Budapest, Hungary) a medical diagnostics and dialysis group.

The Swiss business press seemed to cheer the return of the maverick investor, better known recently for his championship sailing, as his Ares Life Sciences fund together with Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity (MLGPE; New York) emerged as the winners of a hard-fought bidding war for Euromedic.

Sailing teams backed by Bertarelli have twice won the America's Cup for landlocked Switzerland, making him a national hero who also is considered to be one of that country's richest men.

Details of the transaction were not disclosed, but the Financial Times in London reported the deal as valued at 1800 million ($1.26 billion).

The Financial Times also noted the intensity of investor interest in a shift from biotech to med-tech that the battle for Euromedic galvanized.

The previous owners, Warburg Pincus (London) and GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin), have recorded a 60% annual return, nearly tripling the return on their initial investment made just three years previously.

Private Equity News, specializing in the European private equity industry, reported five buyout firms "with extensive experience of the sector" dropped out of the bidding war in mid-May, leaving four groups to go on to the second stage for the Hungarian healthcare group.

With revenues doubling in the past year to 1284 million ($448 million) and pre-tax earnings of 22%, Euromedic is a fast-growing medical services provider specializing in dialysis services and diagnostic imaging that until recently was exclusively operating in Central and Eastern Europe.

A third of revenue comes from dialysis, while medical imaging and diagnostics contributed more than half of company sales.

Warburg Pincus supported the aggressive expansion of Euromedic from 32 healthcare centers in four countries to 153 wholly owned clinics and care facilities it operates today in 14 countries.

Euromedic contracts with government health insurance funds or hospitals for delivering medical specialties that are capital-intensive, benefiting from the increasing levels of outsourcing by governments to address unmet service requirements.

According to the Bucharest newspaper Ziarul Financiar in Romania, where Euromedic owns five centers, the company is investing 140 million ($63 million) over the next 18 months for diagnosis and dialysis centers and adding three PET/CT treatment units.

The newspaper reports Euromedic is increasing its operations budget by 35% in Romania for 2008.

Recently Euromedic demonstrated a potential for greater growth by expanding both vertically, offering new services for laboratory diagnostics and radiotherapy, as well as horizontally, expanding into Western European countries.

The Financial Times reported the company recently won its first contracts in the UK from the National Health Service "and is building on two greenfield sites in south London and one in the Midlands."

The Tribune of Geneva reported that in the fall of 2007 Euromedic acquired three medical imaging and radiology labs in the Valais Canton.

U.S. sales of molecular tests drive Tepnel's growth

On the strength of a 45% growth for 2007 in its molecular diagnostics division, Tepnel Life Sciences (Manchester, UK/Stamford, Connecticut) reported strong profitability for 2007 and CEO Ben Matzilevich told D&IW the company is "very comfortable" with analysts' targets for 2008.

The UK-based company bought the molecular diagnostics assets of Orchid BioSciences (Princeton, New Jersey) in 2004, which have since "become the cornerstone of our diagnostic line," according to Matzilevich, providing organic growth of over 20% each year.

Branded as Tepnel LifeMatch, the rapid analysis products detect and measure HLA (human leukocyte antigen) markers using the the xMAP platform from Luminex (Austin, Texas).

Claiming the industry lead for reagent sales in the field of transplant immunology and genetic disease predisposition, Matzilevich told D&IW that Tepnel will launch in 4Q08 a line of blood bank screening tests for the Luminex platform.

The new test screens for pathogens for transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) and Matzilevich said that if a majority of blood banks follow the recommendations from the American Association of Blood Banks (Bethesda, Maryland), he expects the market for TRALI diagnostics will double from current spending of between $75 million and $100 million for this subset of the overall $40 billion blood bank market.

Marketing accord for breast cancer test

Provista Life Sciences (PLS; Phoenix) reported reaching a strategic partnering agreement with International Health Technology (IHT) to release the company's BT Test into the UK and Ireland.

The BT Test, a new blood test to aid healthcare providers in early breast cancer detection, will be provided through IHT's women's clinic for breast health, BreastHealth UK.

PLS and IHT will introduce the BT Test into the UK and Ireland beginning this summer, with a following expanded release to other European Union countries thereafter.

Terms for the licensing agreement were not disclosed.

The BT Test, or Biomarker Translation Test, finds multiple cancer-related proteins in the blood and combines the results with the patient's medical profile to help identify breast cancer as early as possible.