A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Quest Diagnostics (Lyndhurst, New Jersey), a provider of diagnostic testing, information and services, reported acquiring HemoCue (Angelhom, Sweden), a company specializing in near patient testing, also known as point-of-care (POC) testing, from the private equity firm EQT II, for about $420 million in cash.

Quest said the acquisition will allow it to enter the near patient testing market and leverage HemoCue’s international presence to reach new markets worldwide. The company said it plans to link HemoCue’s handheld systems with its Care360 portal, which gives doctors access to lab and medication records, patient medical history and remote ordering of lab testing or prescriptions.

Quest said that the transaction, financed through a new credit facility, is not expected to have material impact on its 2007 financial results.

HemoCue has annual revenues of about $90 million, and is a leading international provider in near patient testing for hemoglobin. It claims a growing share in professional glucose and microalbumin testing.

The company’s handheld systems are used in physicians’ offices, blood banks, hospitals, diabetes clinics, and public health clinics. In developing countries these systems are used as the primary means to screen for anemia. The measurement of hemoglobin is important for patients being treated by transfusion, or undergoing dialysis or chemotherapy, where instant test results can lead to immediate treatment decisions.

Quest said that HemoCue has a strong product pipeline, based on the use of its patented microfluidic systems, and that it is currently developing new tests, including a near patient test to determine white blood cell counts. It is designed to help determine the presence of an infection and the need for antibiotic treatment, potentially reducing the overuse of antibiotics.

Quest said that the acquisition also complements its efforts in near patient testing for infectious disease and cancer, including new tests for colorectal cancer screening and herpes simplex virus type 2.

“Technology is enabling diagnostic testing to move closer to the patient, and the acquisition of HemoCue and its exciting product pipeline gives us a strong presence in this emerging market,” said Surya Mohapatra, PhD, CEO and chairman of Quest. “Linking near patient testing devices to our proprietary Care360 patient-centric physician portal can provide longitudinal test reporting on a patient regardless of how or where a test was performed. This will help doctors improve the way they diagnose, monitor and treat disease.”

Inverness Medical Innovations (IMI; Waltham, Massachusetts), a manufacturer of rapid diagnostic products, reported acquiring Promesan (Milan, Italy), a distributor of POC diagnostic testing products to the Italian marketplace, for about €3.4 million ($4.4 million).

IMI said the acquisition of Promesan marks its first direct presence in Italy and provides it with an established Italian commercial and distribution network for its diagnostic products.

Promesan had 2006 revenues of about €3.5 million.

Inverness also last week reported acquiring substantially all of the assets of First Check Diagnostics (Lake Forest, California), a private diagnostics firm, for about $25 million in cash.

Inverness also will pay an earn-out to First Check equal to the incremental revenue growth of the acquired products for 2007 and for the first nine months of 2008, as compared to the preceding comparable periods.

First Check had 2006 revenues of around $11 million and has been operating profitably.

First Check claims leadership in home testing for drugs of abuse, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates. It also offers tests, sold through retail channels, for alcohol abuse, cholesterol monitoring and colon cancer screening.

Ron Zwanziger, CEO of Inverness, said that over-the-counter (OTC) drugs-of-abuse testing “has exhibited rapid rates of growth and has strong potential for continued growth. The ability to put drug testing in the hands of the consumer is a powerful tool in the fight against drug abuse and aligns well with Inverness’ desire to put diagnostics within the reach of all.”

Steve Moak, CEO of First Check said, “Home drug testing is a critical tool in protecting children from drugs, and I believe that Inverness has the resources and experience as a leader in OTC diagnostics to get these products into more homes.”

Inverness says it also is exploring opportunities for its electrochemical and other technologies in various professional diagnostic and consumer-oriented applications, including immuno-diagnostics.

Stratagene (La Jolla, California), a manufacturer of specialized life science research and diagnostic products, reported obtaining the last of four co-exclusive licenses to more than 150 microRNA sequences available from Max Planck Innovation, the technology transfer agency of the Max Planck Society (Munchen, Germany). Stratagene will use the microRNA sequences for the manufacture and sale of molecular diagnostic kits. Financial terms were not disclosed.

MicroRNAs are small RNAs that act to regulate messenger RNA (mRNA) expression. MicroRNAs are believed to regulate many genes, and thus thought to be good indicators for many disease biomarkers. Of particular interest to Stratagene is the association of microRNAs with cancer, it said.

Joseph Sorge, MD, CEO and chairman of Stratagene, said, “The potential of these sequences, when paired with our proprietary FullVelocity technology, should allow us to develop important detection tests for the molecular diagnostics marketplace.”

Stratagene’s life science research unit develops products used to accelerate research in fields spanning molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, drug discovery and toxicology. Max Planck Innovation advises scientists of the Max Planck Society in evaluating inventions and filing patent applications.

CardioNet (San Diego), a provider of wireless mobile cardiac outpatient monitoring solutions, reported that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire PDSHeart (West Palm Beach, Florida), a cardiac event monitoring company. The acquisition is expected to close in March 2007. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

PDSHeart’s line of cardiac event monitors and related services will be added to CardioNet’s wireless mobile cardiac outpatient monitoring platform, marketed as the CardioNet system. The combination will position the company as a single source for a comprehensive range of arrhythmia monitoring solutions. The combined company is currently serving patients in 49 states.

“The merger of CardioNet and PDSHeart will immediately create the largest U.S. company in the growing field of outpatient cardiac monitoring,” said James Sweeney, CEO and chairman of CardioNet. “It will allow us to provide physicians with a complete continuum of cardiac monitoring solutions they need today to more rapidly and effectively diagnose and treat patients with cardiovascular disease.”

PDSHeart will operate as a CardioNet subsidiary, with its corporate offices in West Palm Beach, Florida. CardioNet’s principle monitoring center is in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.