Avail Medical Products (Fort Worth, Texas) has entered into a global manufacturing agreement with Kinetic Concepts (KCI; San Antonio, Texas) to exclusively supply all disposable product lines in KCI's Vacuum Assisted Closure (V.A.C.) Therapy System. Under the terms of the multi-year agreement, Avail will manage procurement, manufacturing and fulfillment services for all V.A.C. disposables worldwide. Avail previously provided similar services for KCI's domestic operations. Avail will provide fulfillment services for V.A.C. disposable through its newly opened distribution center in Europe and multiple locations throughout the U.S. Avail also is providing ongoing product development services for several V.A.C. disposable product lines. KCI develops therapeutic healing systems that address skin breakdown, circulatory problems and pulmonary complications associated with patient immobility and chronic wounds. Avail is an outsource provider of design and manufacturing services for single-use medical products.

Epix Medical (Cambridge, Massachusetts) formed an alliance with Schering AG (Berlin) for the discovery, development and commercialization of novel molecularly targeted contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging. The first area of collaboration is a development and commercialization partnership for EP-2104R, Epix' product candidate for the detection of thrombus, or blood clots. The second is a research partnership to discover novel compounds for MRI. Schering has an option to the late-stage development and worldwide marketing rights for EP-2104R, and for all development candidates emerging from the MRI research collaboration. For EP-2104R, Epix will conduct early development activities that Schering will support with up to $9 million. For the exclusive research partnership, Schering committed R&D funding of Epix' early development activities of about $4 million over the next two years and a loan facility of up to $15 million.

Competitive Technologies (CTT; Fairfield, Connecticut) signed an agreement with the Texas A&M University System giving CTT exclusive rights to commercialize a new collagen-based wound sealant. The sealant, prepared as a thick liquid and poured or injected into the wound, where it polymerizes in situ, is suitable for human medical, veterinary, and dental practice applications. The A&M System wound sealant technology is from the research of Drs. Douglas Miller, Jimmy Keeton and Ian Tizard. The technology demonstrates the feasibility of a collagen-based wound sealant, which is easy to apply, takes effect in situ, supports cellular compatibility and faster healing, and imparts mechanical strength and elasticity. The technology has potential applications for soft tissue wound repair and may be used alone or in conjunction with other products. Alternative use is as a drug delivery system, which might include a slow release depot for vaccines, adjuvants or drugs, bone repair or graft or prosthetic implant stabilization.

McKesson (San Francisco, California) has signed a five-year pharmaceutical and medical-surgical distribution agreement with HealthTrust Purchasing Group (HPG; Nashville, Tennessee), one of the nation's leading healthcare group purchasing organizations. The agreement renews a relationship that dates back to 1998. Under the new agreement, which runs through August 2008, McKesson will serve as an authorized distributor for pharmaceutical and medical-surgical supplies for HPG members. As part of an existing agreement, McKesson will continue to provide pharmaceutical distribution services for HCA members through at least December 2004. McKesson is a provider of supply, information and care management products and services.

Owens & Minor (Richmond, Virginia), a distributor of national name-brand medical/surgical supplies, signed a five-year master distribution agreement with HealthTrust Purchasing Group (HPG; Nashville, Tennessee), a group purchasing organization. Under terms of the agreement, effective Sept. 1, Owens & Minor is one of three national healthcare product distributors authorized to pursue distribution contracts with HPG hospital systems. HPG has a membership in excess of 900 facilities and contracting volume totaling more than $5.5 billion.

Premier Purchasing Partners, the group purchasing division of Premier (San Diego, California), has awarded FFF Enterprises (Temecula, California) a three-year contract to supply Premier members with specialty, fractionated blood products. The agreement, covering the alliance's nearly 1,500 hospitals, became effective July 1. FFF Enterprises is the nation's largest distributor of fractionated blood products, including albumin, immune globulins and antihemophilic factors. FFF also supplies Premier members with influenza vaccines.

Vision-Sciences (Natick, Massachusetts) signed a development, supply and distribution agreement with privately held Estech (Danville, California) for products designed to provide access and visualization for minimally invasive cardiac surgery for the treatment and ablation of atrial fibrillation (AF). The Vision Sciences CT-F100 and CTSS-F21 Cardiothoracic Endoscope and Slide-On EndoSheath System is designed to provide minimally invasive access to the pericardium in order to enhance visualization during epicardial AF ablation procedures. Under the agreement, Estech will distribute the CT- F100 and CTSS-F21 with its suite of products for AF ablation.