A Medical Device Daily

Ethicon (Somerville, New Jersey) reported that it has acquired Vascular Control Systems (San Juan Capistrano, California), a private company developing medical devices to treat fibroids and to control bleeding in obstetric and gynecologic applications. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The primary technology acquired by Ethicon in the deal is a uterine artery occlusion treatment offering a minimally-invasive alternative to current therapies.

”This represents a strong, strategic fit with our gynecologic business,” said Sheri McCoy, company group chairman for Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, New Jersey) with responsibility for the Ethicon franchise. “The technology and knowledge we'll gain will enable us to expand our ability to create new therapies for women.”

Uterine fibroids are a common women's health problem, occurring in an estimated one-third of women over age 30. Fibroids can cause pelvic pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and infertility.

Ethicon develops surgical products for use in general surgery, wound management, women's health and cardiovascular surgery, doing business in 52 countries, employing about 9,000.

American Medical Systems Holdings (AMS; Minnetonka, Minnesota) reported its acquisition of Solarant Medical (Livermore, California), a private company developing minimally invasive therapies for women who suffer from stress urinary incontinence. The purchase price is comprised of an initial payment, the amount undisclosed, and future payments linked to milestone accomplishments, including FDA approval of the therapy and the establishment of reimbursement codes applicable to both the hospital and office settings.

Specific details of this acquisition will be filed with the SEC, AMS said.

The former Solarant shareholders would also receive an earn-out based on revenues achieved during the first three years in the event of product commercialization. In addition to these acquisition payments, AMS previously funded $1 million of Solarant's development efforts.

Martin Emerson, president and CEO of AMS, said, “Office-based incontinence therapy will be the means by which physicians will ultimately reach a significantly greater number of the 80 million women around the world suffering from stress incontinence. We are eager to actively advance the development activities to this end based upon the solid foundation of the Solarant intellectual property portfolio and product concepts.”

AMS is a supplier of medical devices and procedures to cure erectile dysfunction, benign prostatic hyperplasia, incontinence, menorrhagia, prolapse and other pelvic disorders in men and women. The company said that its products were used to provide about 170,000 procedures in 56 countries during 2005.

In other dealmaking:

• Merck & Co. (Whitehouse Station, New Jersey) and Abmaxis (Santa Clara, California), dedicated to the discovery of monoclonal antibody (MAb) products for human therapeutics and diagnostics, reported an agreement under which Merck will acquire all of the equity of Abmaxis for $80 million in cash.

Abmaxis becomes a Merck subsidiary, with the agreement expected to close in the second quarter of 2006.

Seven Hills Partners served as exclusive financial advisor to Abmaxis in the transaction.

Merck also reported its acquisition of GlycoF , a private biotech that provides yeast glycoengineering and optimization of biologic drug molecules.

“Our acquisition of Abmaxis provides Merck with the opportunity to optimize and humanize antibodies, as well as to discover new antibodies,” said Peter Kim, PhD, president, Merck Research Laboratories . “This, coupled with Merck's own industry-leading capabilities in yeast expression technology and our acquisition of GlycoFi and its complementary technologies, positions us to become a significant player in the important and growing field of biologic drugs.”

Abmaxis specializes in antibody engineering technology. Its Abmaxis in-silico Immunization (AISIM) system enables structure-centric computational design followed by experimental selection of optimized human or humanized monoclonal antibodies.

AISIM is used for building an internal product pipeline and for collaborations with global biotech and pharma partners. Abmaxis collaborates with partners who have proprietary targets or antibodies that require humanization and engineering.

RehabCare Group (St. Louis) said it has agreed to acquire the operating assets of Solara Hospital of New Orleans from Solara Healthcare for $18.7 million. The transaction is expected to close June 1, 2006.

Solara Hospital of New Orleans is a 44-bed long-term acute care hospital located on the seventh floor of West Jefferson Medical Center (Marrero, Louisiana), on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

Since 1995, RehabCare has staffed and managed West Jefferson's 22-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit, as well as the hospital's outpatient physical rehabilitation program. A third outpatient program opened in nearby Terrytown in June 2003, under the management of RehabCare. RehabCare manages four skilled nursing facility therapy programs in New Orleans in addition to its West Jefferson operations.

Gary Muller, West Jefferson CEO, said, “West Jefferson was the only hospital that remained open on the West Bank in the immediate days following Katrina, and both RehabCare and Solara were there, working alongside our staff and overcoming tremendous obstacles to continue a tradition of quality patient services.”

RehabCare is a provider of physical therapy management services for hospital inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing units, outpatient programs and contract therapy services in conjunction with more than 940 hospitals and skilled nursing facilities in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.