Diagnostics & Imaging Week European Correspondent

LONDON ITI Life Sciences (Edinburgh, Scotland) is investing 30 million ($57 million) of public money in the 97.5 million formation of Stirling Medical Innovations, a new company that will use novel biomarkers as the basis of home use diagnostic tests for monitoring chronic diseases.

The balance of the investment will come from Inverness Medical Innovations (IMI; Waltham, Massachusetts), which plans to invest 37.5 million in its R&D program and 30 million in manufacturing and commercialization. The facility, to be based in Stirling, Scotland, will create 500 jobs.

It is the third, and, to date, the largest investment by ITI, an independent company with 150 million of public money to invest in developing life sciences in Scotland.

Last month it announced a 3.7 million investment to bring together three Scottish companies to develop cell-based screening systems, and a 5.5 million program bringing together CXR Biosciences (Dundee, Scotland) and Artemis Pharmaceuticals (Cologne, Germany), to develop predictive screens for preclinical drug development.

ITI's investments are based on an assessment of market opportunities that would stimulate Scotland's life sciences sector. It had identified biomarkers as an important area and was looking for suitable partners to pull a program together. IMI was planning an international expansion and had Scotland on its list of possible locations.

"We have got access to key components of IMI's technology and have full rights to commercialize it outside healthcare," Chiplin said. The initial focus will be on developing tests for cardiovascular disease, a major cause of ill health in Scotland.

Two views improve UK breast screening

Newly published statistics from the National Health Service show a large increase in the number of cancers detected by breast screening in the UK.

In 2003/2004, over 14% more cancers were detected compared to the previous year, with more than 11,000 women having breast cancer detected and treated following screening for the disease, according to the NHS data.

Since 2001 the total number of cancers detected through breast screening has risen by nearly one-third. Of the 11,000 cancers detected last year, nearly half were smaller cancers which could only be picked up through screening.

Health Secretary John Reid said, "We know that detecting cancer early helps save lives. Last year, over 11,000 women had breast cancer detected and treated more quickly than they otherwise would have, thanks to the NHS breast screening program. In fact, nearly half of these wouldn't have been detected at all without screening."

He added: "The latest figures are further evidence that our NHS breast screening program is one of the best in the world and is making a real difference to over a million women by giving them peace of mind that they are being checked for this disease every three years."

The increase in the number of cancers detected is attributed to the introduction of two-view mammography, which means taking two views of each breast at every screen instead of just at the first. As of December 2004, more than 95% of local screening units were using this technique, the NHS reports. Investing 11.5 million for extending the breast screening program to women aged 65-70, coupled with an extra 11.4 million for equipment, has also helped to significantly improve the number of cancers detected, according to the NHS.

Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said: "Following the implementation of two-view mammography we are seeing an improvement in the rate of cancer detection. We are also seeing a significant increase in the total numbers of women screened due to the expansion of the program to regularly invite women up to and including age 70.

"The successful implementation of age extension and two-view mammography are proof of our commitment to continuing to provide women with access to a high quality service and I would strongly urge all women aged 50 and over to attend for regular breast screening every three years."

Program eyes roadside drug testing

Avitar (Canton, Massachusetts) is participating in the ESTHER (Evaluation of oral fluid Screening devices by TISPOL to Harmonize European police Requirements) project, coordinated by TISPOL, the European police traffic network.

TISPOL is organizing the ESTHER project to standardize roadside drug-testing practices in European countries. Over the course of about a year, TISPOL participants will outline a standard procedure for roadside drug tests.

"Drugged driving is an issue of growing concern worldwide," said Peter Phildius, Avitar CEO. "Because of its ease of use and rapid results, our ORALscreen Drugometer test lends itself extremely well as a tool for roadside drug tests."

He said his company "appreciate[s] the opportunity to play a role in helping police departments across Europe determine viable methods to reduce the incidences of drugged driving."

Participating traffic police forces include those from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

Within the scope of the TISPOL project, operational requirements and specifications will be obtained under police conditions as part of normal traffic enforcement activities and surveillance. Authorities will stop traffic offenders and use oral fluid-based drug tests at roadside to screen for illegal drug use.

TriPath wins SurePath supply pact

TriPath Imaging (Burlington, North Carolina) reported that Medical Solutions, its distributor in the UK, has won an exclusive five-year contract to supply the Cumbria and Lancashire Strategic Health Authority with TriPath's SurePath liquid-based Pap test.

"We are very pleased that the UK continues to recognize TriPath Imaging as a leader in liquid-based cytology," said Paul Sohmer, MD, president, CEO and chairman of TriPath. "We look forward to continue growing our business in the UK."

TriPath manufactures solutions to improve the management of cancer, including detection, diagnosis, staging and treatment. TriPath Oncology, a wholly owned subsidiary of TriPath Imaging, develops molecular diagnostic and pharmacogenomic products and services for malignant melanoma and cancers of the cervix, breast, ovary and prostate.