A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Vital Images (Minneapolis), a provider of enterprise-wide visualization and analysis solutions, has signed an agreement with Confirma (Kirkland, Washington), which focuses on computer-aided detection (CAD) for MRI, to distribute CADstream in conjunction with Vitrea 2, Vital Images' flagship software, beginning this summer.

CADstream said it leads the market in breast MRI CAD with more than 200 CADstream systems installed throughout the U.S. and Europe. Confirma began selling CADstream in 2003.

"As the breast MRI market continues its explosive growth, distribution partnerships with market-leading companies such as Vital Images enable us to expand our reach," said Wayne Wager, Confirma president and CEO.

The company said that since 1999, there has been a 40% per year increase in the number of breast MRI examinations in the U.S.

Diagnostics firm bioMerieux (Durham, North Carolina) said it has secured a five-year contract with MDS Diagnostic Services, the largest provider of laboratory testing services in Canada and a unit of MDS (Toronto). bioMerieux will supply its Vitek 2 automated bacteriology identification and susceptibility testing (ID/AST) system to eight MDS laboratories in British Columbia and Ontario.

"We serve patients directly through our own community medical laboratories and the hospital labs we manage, which combined, provide more than 50 million clinical tests every year," said Dr. Brian Sheridan, senior vice president of medical affairs, MDS Diagnostic Services. "After evaluating several providers, we selected the Vitek 2 because of its ability to manage, with accuracy and speed, the large volumes of diagnostic tests processed for physicians and patients in our labs every day."

Vitek 2 provides rapid results processing (a two- to six- hour average turnaround), which enables MDS Diagnostic Services to provide timely and accurate test results to the more than 21,000 healthcare providers and 17 million patients it serves annually. "We were willing to invest in a fully automated system to support our goal of delivering the highest quality service to our customers," Sheridan said.

The Vitek 2 is a fully automated bacterial identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing system. The system also includes a highly advanced software system that then interprets the identified bacteria's antibiotic resistance patterns. Additionally, bioMerieux has designed a unique, 64-well susceptibility card specifically for MDS to further enhance productivity on its Vitek 2 instruments.

The Vitek 2 offers random or batch processing, rapid results and a quality control module. The system is used for bacterial and yeast identification, antimicrobial susceptibility testing and urine screening and features an Advanced Expert System (AES) and Observa, a complete data management system. The Vitek 2 already has been implemented in two labs in British Columbia, and implementation in MDS's Ontario labs will begin this summer.

GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin) said it has signed a 10-year research agreement with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to establish what GE called "a landmark alliance" in medical research.

The agreement is expected to advance personalized healthcare by accelerating collaborative research efforts and quickly transitioning those discoveries into the clinical environment.

"This announcement marks the launch of a significant collaboration between two leaders in healthcare and academic research capable of leveraging world-class technology and world-class medical research to meet healthcare challenges of the future," said John Chiminski, vice president, Global MR Business, for GE Healthcare.

According to research leaders at both institutions, the research alliance will focus on a number of areas, including neuroscience and MR-guided focused ultrasound.

GE Healthcare also reported the first Canadian installation of the company's next-generation volume computed tomography (CT) scanner, the LightSpeed VCT, at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), Westminster Campus (London, Ontario).

The LightSpeed VCT, the world's first volume CT system, according to GE Healthcare, enables cardiologists to capture images of the heart and coronary arteries in five heartbeats - something no other CT system can offer. In seconds, physicians can obtain the information they need to diagnose disease and life threatening illnesses including cardiovascular disease, stroke and chest pain.

"We'll be breaking barriers in speed and accuracy of patient exams, and will be able to offer new and enhanced diagnostic procedures, particularly for our trauma and pediatric patients, thanks to our new LightSpeed VCT," said Dr. Rethy Chhem, chief of radiology at LHSC. "Some Volume CT procedures can be done in only one simple exam, and this will greatly benefit both physicians and patients."

The LightSpeed VCT is designed to have the capability to attain 43-millisecond temporal resolution, which means physicians can effectively freeze the motion of the heart in a scan and secure extremely high-quality images of coronary arteries in submillimeter detail, GE Healthcare said.

In a single rotation, the Lightspeed VCT creates 64 high-resolution anatomical images as thin as a credit card. Those images are combined to form a three-dimensional view of the patient's anatomy for the physicians to analyze.

In other grants/contracts news:

BioCurex (Richmond, British Columbia) reported initiating a collaboration with the Goshen Health System's Center for Cancer Care (CCC/GHS; Goshen, Indiana) for developing and evaluating its RECAF cancer marker.

BioCurex says RECAF is suitable to detect all cancers and is found on malignant cells from a variety of cancer types but absent in most normal or benign cells. The potential benefit, BioCurex said, is that RECAF "is a superior diagnostic tool and a new way to deliver targeted therapy."

The collaboration, described as long-term, will consist of three phases: The first will continue and expand the applications of serum and biopsy tests using RECAF; the second will focus on imaging applications using RECAF to detect the location of cancerous tumors; the third includes clinical trials in which RECAF will be used as a way to deliver therapeutic agents to destroy the cancer cells "with minimal damage to normal tissues." The third phase is contingent to the previous development of animal and culture models showing how RECAF targets cancer cells," the company said.

Douglas Schwartzentruber, MD, medical director of the Center for Cancer Care, said that the pact combines the science and clinical strengths of the two institutions.

Ricardo Moro, MD, president and CEO of BioCurex, said: "Once we finalize the process of licensing the diagnostic applications of the RECAF technology, we shall move the focus of the company to its next logical level, which includes cancer imaging and therapy. We have already started research efforts in this direction and the initial results are encouraging."

BioCurex develops products based on patented/proprietary technology in the areas of cancer diagnosis, imaging and therapy.

CCC/GHS provides cancer care on the campus of Goshen General Hospital and participates in programs with various cancer researchers and organizations. It reports being involved in more than 40 clinical trials.

Inverness Medical Innovations (Waltham, Massachusetts), a manufacturer and marketer of rapid diagnostic products for the consumer and professional markets, said that its subsidiary, Wampole Laboratories (Princeton, New Jersey), has signed an agreement with ThyroTec to serve as the exclusive North American distributor of ThyroTest, a rapid immunoassay screen for hypothyroidism.

ThyroTest is a two-step lateral flow immunoassay which relies on Inverness' patented technology to obtain a qualitative determination of human thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in whole blood. ThyroTest is the first rapid-format TSH test to receive FDA clearance and CLIA waiver.

TSH tests are now the fifth most widely performed assay in U.S. clinical laboratories and it is reported that more Americans suffer from thyroid disease than diabetes and cancer combined. According to the Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study, 13 million Americans have undiagnosed thyroid disorders and one out of every eight women will develop thyroid disease.

"The potential U.S. market for rapid TSH tests should grow to over $30 million annually over the next several years, so we are excited to carry ThyroTest, the first such test on the market," said John Bridgen, president of Wam-pole Laboratories.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Baltimore) provides reimbursement for the rapid TSH test at about $24 per test.

Isilon Systems (Seattle), a provider of intelligent clustered storage systems, reported that the Louis Warschaw Prostate Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's (Los Angeles) Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute has selected its Isilon IQ system to store clinical research data, the institute said, to create a "centralized, highly reliable, manageable and highly scalable storage architecture that seamlessly supports [our] leading-edge cancer research initiatives."

The new data system features blood and gene analysis, stored on an "intelligent clustered" system, enabling Cedars-Sinai's Prostate Cancer Center researchers to correlate clinical observations with data from endeavors such as the Human Genome Project for targeted therapies.

The center uses advanced mass spectroscopy to obtain fingerprints of all proteins in blood, gathering more than 60 gigabytes of data from a single drop of a patient's blood. The patient record, of which the protein data comprises only one field, is stored on Isilon IQ clustered storage along with relevant information from other research projects.

Isilon said that Isilon IQ is designed for digital content and large data-intensive markets, such as digital imaging, life sciences, oil and gas and the federal government.

Natus Medical (San Carlos, California) reported receiving a three-year, dual-source supplier agreement for infant hearing screening products from Novation (Irving, Texas), the supply company of VHA and the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC).

Natus will make its newborn hearing screening products available to about 2,300 VHA and UHC member organizations.

Jim Hawkins, president and CEO of Natus, said the contract award is for the Echo-Screen Hearing Screener and Algo Newborn Hearing Screener lines. Natus manufactures products for the detection, treatment, monitoring and tracking of common disorders in newborns and children. Its brand-name products, including Algo, Neometrics, Echo-Screen and neoBLUE, are sold through distributors in more than 50 countries.