A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

The European medical technology industry association, Eucomed (Brussels, Belgium), said that it "welcomes" a European Commission (EC) proposal for a decision of the European Parliament concerning the 7th Framework Program for Research 2007-2013, published last week.

The association said it believes that what it termed "this ambitious project" will contribute to "achieving excellence in scientific and technological research in the medical technology field."

Maurice Wagner, the organization's director general, said, "We are pleased to see that a particular emphasis has been placed on the development and validation of new therapies, diagnostic tools and technologies, as well as on efficient and sustainable healthcare systems. This project will provide our industry with new opportunities to improve patient care."

Eucomed said that in its proposal, the EC "clearly recognizes the need to increase the competitiveness of European health-related industries and businesses through the creation of an environment favorable to the small- to medium-sized, research-based companies that are the main drivers of the medical technology industry.

The association said it also welcomes the special attention given to nanotechnology and emerging technologies, "as this is another area where the medical technology industry is very active today."

Eucomed said nanotechnology "offers new hopes for cancer treatment," citing the example of ongoing development of coated nanoparticles that can be injected into cancer-binding and cancer-fighting cells and then be activated by external devices, e.g. magnetically at the cancer site.

Human tissue engineering is "another fascinating medical technology with huge potential for the future," the association said. Tissue-engineered products could soon provide viable treatments for cardiovascular diseases, which cause about 50% of all deaths today.

Eucomed said research is currently under way in the field of heart-tissue regeneration, for example. With donor and mechanical heart valves encountering such problems as limited durability, shortage of supply and the inability to grow (posing a problem for childhood patients), the association said tissue-engineered valves will avoid these problems, being living replacements, capable of growing with the patient.

Research also is being undertaken to develop blood vessels capable of replacing natural vessels or to grow patches of heart muscle tissue to replace damaged tissue, Eucomed said.

University wins 'super' microscope funding

Scientists at the University of St. Andrews (St. Andrews, Scotland) reported last week that they have won a 750,000 grant to develop a new "super" microscope to be used for cutting-edge research into Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

The Biophotonics workstation will be the first instrument of its kind to offer a wide range of functions for cell research in a single tool, the university said in a statement. It will allow scientists to image, sort, separate and punch holes into cells as small as 1/100th of a millimeter.

The work, it said, "will have a crucial role to play in developing technology for the early diagnosis and treatment of a range of illnesses."

The project will draw together research at the university from academics including physicist Professor Wilson Sibbett, cancer researcher Andrew Riches, and Frank Gunn-Moore, a neurobiologist investigating how nerve cells are affected by neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Leading the project is Professor Kishan Dholakia, head of the Optical Trapping Group at the School of Physics and Astronomy. Dholakia is pioneering a number of cell-based research techniques based on light.

Of the recent funding, supplied by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, he said: "Standard microscopes can usually do one or two things, but this biophotonics workstation will offer the whole range of functions in a single tool. It will combine the latest advances in optics with some really cutting edge biology and ultimately could help save lives."

The multi-disciplinary aspect of the work station means research will benefit from added safety against possible contamination to cells.

Gunn-Moore said: "Since all of the functions [of the workstation] can be done in one room and on one system, our cell samples involved in Alzheimer's disease or cancer don't have to be moved thus minimizing the possibility of contamination and ensuring the stability of tissue."

The workstation, which will take two years to put together, will be built around a Nikon microscope and will use compact lasers. It is expected to be the size of a 20-inch television set, but the researchers said they could develop smaller versions, depending on commercial interest.

Dholakia said: "We own the intellectual property on this project and if the initial microscope is a success there is lots of potential to build bespoke microscopes for other research organizations or medical diagnostics companies."

DOBI adds another distributor

DOBI Medical International (Mahwah, New Jersey) said it has signed a new distributor agreement for the ComfortScan system with Prisma Imaging Western Europe (Naples, Italy). The ComfortScan system is a light-based, non-invasive optical imaging tool designed to assist physicians in the diagnosis and management of breast cancer.

Under the agreement terms, Prisma will conduct a clinical trial in Rome using the ComfortScan system to show the quality of the system and obtain local acceptance and registration specific to the countries of Italy, Portugal and Bulgaria.

With the addition of Prisma, the DOBI Medical global distribution network now includes 10 international distributors covering four continents. Countries where the system is available include Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Czech Republic, Greece, India, the Netherlands, Panama, Russia and Switzerland.

DOBI said it plans more distribution announcements this year.

According to the European Network of Cancer Registries, breast cancer is the most common cancer among females in both Italy and Europe.

Vincenzo La Bella, president of Prisma Imaging, said, "The ComfortScan system represents one of the most promising and useful tools for women's health. This system is designed to not only see, but also understand the functional mechanism of the disease without (X-ray or ionizing) radiation and invasivity."

Four SHAs choose SurePath test

TriPath Imaging (Burlington, North Carolina) said that Medical Solutions, its distributor in the UK, has been awarded an exclusive five-year contract to supply the SurePath liquid-based Pap test to the four Strategic Health Authorities that comprise the North East, Yorkshire and Humber regions of England.

It is estimated that when fully converted, these regions will perform more than 375,000 SurePath tests annually.

Paul Sohmer, MD, chairman, president and CEO of TriPath Imaging, said that with this contract, the company now has cumulative commitments that represent nearly 25% of the Pap test market in the UK. "We expect to continue to grow our opportunity in the UK as other regions finalize their decisions," he said.