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Specialization in high-tech medical technologies paid off handsomely for Germany in 2007, with the sector reporting strong job growth and steady innovation, as defined by the number of new products to be introduced in 2008.

The annual report from Berlin-based BVMed (German Medical Technology Association) shows 55% of the 140 med-tech companies taking part in the survey created new jobs in 2007, compared with growth of 45% for 2006 and 36% in 2005. The medical technology sector employs some 165,000 people in Germany.

The sector is a “jobs engine” for Germany, according to Joachim Schmitt, director of the association.

The report shows an average of 9% of annual sales revenue is invested in R&D with a third of the responding firms saying they invest far more. Eighty percent of the companies said they will bring new products to market in the coming year.

The mood in the sector is mixed, with less than half of the companies predicting improved results for 2007 over 2006. On average companies expect a 7% rise in sales.

Holding back enthusiasm is the uncertainty about reimbursement for new procedures, increased pressure on prices coming from purchasing syndicates, and hospital lump-sum-per-case payment policies.

The view that medical technology is seen as a cost driver by many health insurers, hospitals and doctors is challenged in a second report conducted by the Technical University of Berlin and corporate consultants Droege & Co. on behalf of the German electrical engineering and electronics industry association.

Titled “The Savings Potential of Innovative Medical Technology in Healthcare,” the study examins the impact on work processes and cost structures for 10 medical technology products, including an implant for joint closure and a procedure for removing cancer cells.

Annual savings ranged from €5 million ($7.5 million) to €990 million ($1.47 billion) and the total for all 10 products was put at €1.5 billion ($2.25 billion) per year.

A rapidly growing area for product innovation among German companies is home care and BVMed is pressing for the greater acceptance and official recognition for home care as a subcategory under German social health laws. The association says the care being delivered and the med-tech products used to deliver that care are inseparable, representing “a cohesive and unique part of healthcare.”

Examples of home care tightly linked to products include dialysis, advanced wound care, pain and infusion therapy, and respiratory services.

The association is promoting a public policy statement of “ambulatory where possible, in-patient where necessary” to push official recognition and resulting reimbursement.

German spending on medical devices and technologies amount to almost €20 billion ($29 billion) annually, making it the third-largest market for medical technologies in the world, according to BVMed, and the largest in Europe, with twice the volume of France and three times that of England.

bioMériux forms j-v to boost Japan sales

Sysmex (Kobe, Japan) purchased a 34% equity stake in bioMérieux’s (Marcy L’Etoile France) Japanese subsidiary, bioMérieux Japan (Tokyo), as the two companies deepen a relationship begun last July, when bioMérieux became a global partner to distribute Sysmex’s UF-1000i urine sediment analyzer to its clinical microbiology customer base.

The new company, Sysmex bioMérieux, will promote the bioMérieux’s products in Japan, beginning in April, as well as managing the national regulatory filing and marketing activities for bioMérieux products.

Stéphane Bancel, CEO of bioMérieux, said operating through a fully owned subsidiary for clinical diagnostics and industrial testing products failed to bring sufficient scale in sales and service in Japan, leaving it trailing in 19th position for in vitro diagnostics (IVD), where worldwide the company says it is the seventh-largest provider.

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for just under 11% of bioMérieux’s annual sales.

Sysmex is considered to be the leading IVD firm in Japan and President Hisashi Ietsugu said the j-v with bioMérieux is a solid strategic fit, bringing new product offerings to a strong national sales and service infrastructure.

Microbiology testing in Japan is estimated at YEN 30 billion ($1 billion), making it strategically important as the second largest market for volume worldwide.

Sysmex currently offers a range of diagnostics products for coagulation, biochemistry, immunochemistry and urinalysis. The company has been actively pursuing market opportunities for point-of-care testing, establishing local healthcare networks to link hospitals and clinics.

Earlier this month, bioMérieux reported that it will close its Boxtel manufacturing site in the Netherlands by the end of 2009, transferring molecular diagnostic systems production to Grenoble, France, where a new plant will be built adjacent to product development facilities.

R&D for microplate immunoassay products, conducted at Boxtel, will be relocated to the main bioMérieux facility at Marcy l’Etoile, outside of Paris. The company said the manufacturing site for this line will be announced at a later date.

R&D, together with the production of raw materials, will be moved to the company’s global center of excellence for immunoassays. bioMérieux reported 2006 revenues just over €1 billion ($1.47 billion) and operates in 150 countries through 36 subsidiaries and a global distribution network of distributors. More than 80% of annual sales come from outside of France, with North America accounting for just over one-fourth of the total.

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