CardioMag Imaging (CMI; Schenectady, New York) has signed a multi-year distribution agreement with Shenzhen Zhiheng Advanced Electrical Technology Co. (Shenzhen, China). The exclusive agreement calls for deliveries of specified numbers of CMI's magnetocardiography (MCG) units per year, beginning immediately.

The agreement follows the successful operation of the company's nine-channel system that was sold more than a year ago to the TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital (TICH; Tianjin, China). TICH has agreed to serve as a central operator-training center and to lead clinical R&D efforts to promote broader applications of MCG in China.

Shenzhen Zhiheng Advanced Electrical Technology expects to initially introduce CardioMag's systems into some of the leading facilities among the approximately 20,000 hospitals in China.

CardioMag said it expects to negotiate similar distribution agreements with medical equipment dealers in other countries around the world. In the U.S., where it received FDA approval for commercial sale of the systems last year, the company has targeted chest pain centers as the most likely early adopters of its technology, where the focus will be on early detection and risk stratification.

Privately held CMI was formed in 1999 to develop cardiac diagnostic products from more than 40 years of worldwide MCG research and development based upon SQUID (superconducting quantum interference device) sensors. Shenzhen Zhiheng Advanced Electrical Technology manufactures and markets medical equipment for the domestic Chinese market.

In another deal involving distribution in China, Chindex International (Bethesda, Maryland) reported an exclusive, multi-year agreement with Intuitive Surgical (Sunnyvale, California) for distribution of Intuitive's da Vinci Surgical System in that country.

Under the terms of the agreement, Chindex will market and distribute the da Vinci system the first totally intuitive laparoscopic surgical robot throughout the healthcare industry in China.

The da Vinci system was the first operative surgical robotic system cleared by the FDA and is now used in more than 160 sites in the U.S. as well as many countries in Europe, but has yet to be introduced in China. The FDA has cleared the da Vinci System for use in many procedures, including general laparoscopic surgery, thoracoscopic surgery, laparoscopic radical prostatectomies and thoracoscopically assisted cardiotomy procedures.

Chindex President and CEO Roberta Lipson said, "The da Vinci Surgical System is a cutting-edge technology that is redefining the world of minimally invasive surgery around the world, shortening the operating time and dramatically reducing post-operative complications in such important procedures as cardiac bypass, radical prostatectomy and other life-saving surgeries."

She said her company has begun discussions about placements of the system in what she termed "the premier surgical centers around the country," adding that the response is "enthusiastic."

Lipson added: "The Chinese government is committed to supporting its major healthcare providers with the leading-edge equipment at a world-class level."

Jerry McNamara, senior vice president of sales at Intuitive, said Chindex is "well recognized in the China market for bringing new top-tier healthcare technologies to that country. We believe the product is right for introduction in China at this time and Chindex is the right distributor for us."

Chindex is a U.S. firm operating in several healthcare sectors of the Chinese market, including Hong Kong. It provides representative and distribution services to a number of major multinational companies, including Siemens AG, for which it distributes ultrasound systems, and Guidant, for interventional cardiology products, including stents, balloon catheters and guide wires.

German firm to become Biophan Europe

Biophan Technologies (West Henrietta, New York), a developer of technologies designed to improve the MRI-compatibility of medical devices, said it has agreed to acquire Amris (Castrop-Rauxel/Gelsenkirchen, Germany), a developer of MRI-safe and image-compatible solutions and biomedical devices. Biophan also will acquire the exclusive license to Amris's 15 issued and pending patents covering imaging of devices such as stents and other vascular implants.

The parties expected to execute a definitive agreement and complete due diligence by the end of January. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

Among Amris's assets are an MRI-visible catheter marker, an MRI-visible stent and a series of MRI-visible medical devices, in development. The acquisition and related licensing deal will bring Biophan's patent portfolio to 107 U.S. patents, licenses or applications, in addition to 12 pending European patents, it said.

Upon deal closing, Amris will be renamed Biophan Europe, and Michael Friebe, PhD, will continue as president and join the Biophan board. Amris' scientific director and chief technology officer, Andreas Melzer, MD, will join the Biophan scientific advisory board.

UK providing 3M for obesity fight

The UK Department of Health has budgeted 3 million of extra funding to help in the battle against obesity. Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson said the new money will be split among the nine regions of England, targeted for primary care trusts in the country's most deprived areas. "Obesity has rapidly become a serious problem, with over half of the population recorded as either overweight or obese," Johnson said. "It is essential that people eat healthily and stay active if they are to stave off the threat of diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer."

Saying "we can't force people to be healthy [or] tell them how to lead their lives," she added, "what we can do is provide them with the information, advice and support to make their own choices. And this job starts with the healthcare professionals." Johnson said the 3 million will go to make sure such professionals receive "the necessary training to not only get people thinking about the things they eat and how to be more active, but to support them in maintaining a healthy lifestyle."

Study shows health information differences

A new study of patients with chronic conditions in Europe and the U.S. shows when patients receive health information on how to manage their condition, nearly two-thirds make proactive changes in their behavior based on this information. Additionally, more than three-quarters of those who change their behavior in both the U.S. and in Europe perceive a positive impact on their health. The survey also revealed that more than half the patients in Europe feel they do not know enough about their disease and its treatments to confidently manage their health. And half of the European respondents are concerned their lack of knowledge might be worsening their condition.

The research, commissioned by Pfizer (New York), was devised to explore levels of health information received by those suffering from asthma, adult-onset (Type 2) diabetes and heart disease. The survey gathered the views and experiences of 4,500 patients from Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the U.S.

Across all three disease areas, U.S. patients displayed greater knowledge of their conditions than did the European respondents. Just 3% of European heart disease patients displayed an "excellent" knowledge of their condition vs. 19% of U.S. respondents. There were significant differences in knowledge levels across countries within Europe. Some 43% of UK diabetes patients displayed "excellent" knowledge of their condition, much higher than Italy (23%), Germany (17%), Spain (15%) and Poland (4%). High numbers of respondents from many European countries displayed "poor" knowledge of heart disease, including Spain (92%), Italy (87%) and France (81%).

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