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GE Healthcare (Chalfont St. Giles, UK) has signed a licensing agreement with PhotoCure (Oslo, Norway) giving GE Healthcare exclusive global rights outside of the U.S. and the Nordic region to market and distribute PhotoCure's product Hexvix (hexaminolevulinate), an optical molecular imaging agent intended for the diagnosis and monitoring of bladder cancer.

PhotoCure will be responsible for manufacturing and Nordic distribution of the product. The agreement includes an option for GE Healthcare to market and distribute the product in the U.S.

Hexvix has received approval for the diagnosis of bladder cancer in a large number of European countries through the European mutual recognition procedure, with more expected in the near future.

The agreement includes access for GE to other indications for the product that are under evaluation and testing by PhotoCure.

In their announcement of the agreement, the companies noted that optical imaging is an imaging modality with the potential to provide new applications in the prevention and treatment of bladder cancer as well as other diseases.

"Optical imaging uses light to illuminate superficial tissue, such as bladder tissue," said the statement. "By combining this technology with an optical molecular imaging agent, tumors might be targeted more accurately."

The product is not yet approved by the FDA, but a New Drug Application was submitted last June. If approved by the FDA, it would be the first optical molecular imaging agent of its kind available in the U.S.

Kjetil Hestdal, president and CEO of PhotoCure, said, "This is a great match. With its focus, strong market position in imaging and successful track record of launching new products, GE Healthcare is the ideal partner for establishing Hexvix as a tool in the diagnosis of bladder cancer."

"We believe our partnership with PhotoCure will result in significant patient benefit in the diagnosis and management of bladder cancer," said Daniel Peters, president of medical diagnostics at GE Healthcare.

Globally, bladder cancer is ranked fourth in men and eighth in women among the most common forms of cancer causing mortality. The companies said it is expected that the incidence of bladder cancer will continue to increase concurrent with an increase in industrialization, lifestyle factors and an aging population.

PhotoCure develops pharmaceuticals and medical devices for the treatment and diagnosis of different types of cancer. The products are based on its proprietary photodynamic technologies, targeting specific dermatology and oncology markets.

Health information initiative unveiled

A new initiative to broaden the exchange of information on health matters has been launched by the European Union in cooperation with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Unveiled by European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, the Health in Europe project is financed to the tune of EUR 1.4 million from the EU Public Health Program and managed by the EBU.

Also known as the European Health Information Platform, the multi-media initiative aims at creating a network of public broadcasters and other media across Europe, fostering the exchange of reports including television documentaries, radio broadcasts and press and Internet articles on health issues.

"There is a need for better and more widespread information about health issues in Europe," said Kyprianou. "This partnership of TV and radio networks across Europe through the European Broadcasting Union will help keep citizens, and in particular patients and health professionals, informed on public health issues with a European dimension."

The project already involves the main public service broadcasters in 10 European Countries: ARD in Germany, CT in the Czech Republic, RTBF in Belgium, YLE in Finland, TVP in Poland, ERT in Greece, RAI in Italy, ORF in Austria, Radio Prague in the Czech Republic, Radio Netherlands, Radio France International and France2.

All the other members of the European Broadcasting Union have been invited to join in the program.

Health in Europe generally is based on an ongoing exchange of reports on health and medicine produced by TV broadcasters for their on-air magazine-type shows. Reports are offered free of rights to participating organizations.

It also is to involve:

  • A series of TV documentaries, produced by a consortium of public service broadcasters around Europe.
  • A series of radio documentaries.
  • A series of animations for publication on web sites of participating organizations.

All information will be available on the project web site, where participants in the project also will exchange information.

European broadcasters and associated media will be encouraged to create their own health magazines; to include health themes in existing magazine-type shows; and to report on breaking health stories in their current affairs and news programs.

EC gives nod to Novartis-Chiron deal

Chiron (Emeryville, California) said that the European Commission (EC) earlier this week gave its blessing to the company's acquisition by Novartis (Basel, Switzerland), declaring the combination compatible with the European common market.

The EC okay follows U.S. Federal Trade Commission approval, which came in December, as well as clearance by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States last month.

Subject to stockholder approval and other customary conditions, Chiron and Novartis said they expect that the transaction will be completed in the first half of this year.

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