diaDexus (South San Francisco, California) appointed Fisher HealthCare (Waltham, Massachusetts) as its exclusive customer channel for its automated PLAC test for the Hitachi, Hitachi Roche P-Modular and Olympus chemistry analyzers to U.S. hospital clinical laboratories. According to the company, the PLAC test is the only blood test cleared by the FDA to assess risk for both coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke associated with atherosclerosis. The test is designed to measure lipoprotein-associated phospholipase, a vascular-specific inflammatory enzyme implicated in the formation of rupture-prone plaque.

Echo Therapeutics (Franklin, Massachusetts) reported signing a dermatology product and transdermal drug delivery technology right of first offer agreement with Cato BioVentures, the venture capital affiliate of Cato Research (Durham, North Carolina). Echo said it would have exclusive rights of first negotiation to all dermatology product and transdermal drug delivery opportunities identified or acquired by Cato. Echo said it is developing a needle-free, wireless, transdermal continuous glucose monitoring system for diabetics and for use in hospital critical care units.

eResearchTechnology (Philadelphia) and nSpire Health (Longmont, Colorado) reported an alliance to provide integrated cardiac safety and pulmonary core lab services to clinical researchers worldwide. nSpire and eRT said they will develop a combined solution for cardio/pulmonary safety and efficacy services during clinical trials, ranging from project planning and set-up through study conduct, management and data delivery for primary and secondary cardiac and respiratory clinical trial endpoints.

Immersion Medical (Gaithersburg, Maryland), a subsidiary of Immersion (San Jose, California), said it has agreed to market a virtual reality arthroscopy surgical simulator made by GMV (Madrid, Spain). The insightArthroVR incorporates a computer touch-screen, proxy arthroscopic camera, tools, interchangeable interface model (shoulder or knee), and training software. The modules include basic training intended to help users acquire the skills needed for camera and tool handling, shoulder arthroscopy and knee arthroscopy. GMV says the system simulates the look and feel of minimally invasive shoulder and knee surgeries, such as subacromial decompression, where the inflamed bursa is removed to allow inspection of the rotator cuff and ACL reconstruction.

Luna Innovations (Roanoke, Virginia) reported that the National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, Maryland) has selected its MRI contrast agent candidate for preclinical characterization by the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory (NCL; Frederick, Maryland), a national knowledge base resource for cancer researchers. NCL performs and standardizes the preclinical characterization of nanomaterials intended for therapeutics and diagnostics. Luna's MRI contrast agent is a modified fullerene compound that the company says may prevent the toxicity associated with gadolinium, a contrast substance frequently used in MRI and associated with health problems. Studies of Luna's MRI candidate will include characterization of its physical attributes, its in vitro properties and its in vivo compatibility using animal models. Critical parameters related to distribution, metabolism, elimination and toxicity will be examined, Luna said. The company said it will take one year to characterize a nanomaterial through the NCL, from receipt through the in vivo phase.

Orthovita (Malvern, Pennsylvania) reported obtaining rights to distribute an absorbable microporous polysaccharide hemostatic agent, Hemostase MPH, developed by Medafor (Minneapolis), ap-proved for use as a hemostat in certain surgical procedures under the CE mark and FDA approval. Orthovita said it will rebrand the product as Vitasure Absorbable Hemostat. Orthovita has the non-exclusive right to sell Vitasure in the spine and orthopedic field in the U.S., and certain territories outside of the U.S. Medafor has responsibility for manufacturing and regulatory approvals for the product. The term of the initial agreement is slated to expire in December 2013; Orthovita has the right to renew the agreement for another three-year-period if certain purchase obligations are met during the fifth year of the agreement. Orthovita said it expects to launch Vitasure by the 3Q08 in the U.S. and during 2009 in its territories outside of the U.S.

Medafor also reported forming a three-year agreement with CryoLife (Kennesaw, Georgia) for CryoLife to distribute Medafor's hemostatic agent for use in cardiac, vascular and general surgery, other than orthopedic and ear, nose and throat surgery, outside the U.S. (excluding Japan and China). CryoLife said it expects to begin distributing Hemostase MPH in the U.S. this quarter, except to about 41 hospitals for which Medafor will retain distribution rights until no later than Dec. 31. Outside of the U.S., CryoLife expects to begin distributing Hemostase MPH in Canada, the UK and Germany in 2Q08, with distribution in other markets beginning in 2009.