GE inks deal with optical imaging firm

SAN DIEGO - GE Medical Systems is moving into optical imaging, thanks to a deal with ART Advanced Research Technologies. GE, of Waukesha, WI, has gained exclusive rights to distribute optical developer ART’s SoftScan breast imaging system, currently under development, and the firms have agreed to work together to develop new applications for optical imaging technologies.

The companies announced the relationship at this week’s 2002 Academy of Molecular Imaging meeting. GE agreed to take a minority equity position in ART as part of the deal.

SoftScan uses near-infrared light that is beamed into breast tissue of women who have had suspicious mammograms. A detector measures the dispersion and scatter of the light through breast tissue, and produces metabolic images that reflect the different oxygen saturation and hemoglobin levels in breast tissue.

Due to tumor angiogenesis, cancerous tissue has lower oxygen saturation levels than healthy tissue, and this metabolic process can be used to differentiate cancerous lesions, according to David Hall, chief scientist for biomedical imaging at ART, which is based in Saint-Laurent, Quebec. The company’s goal is to be able to reduce the number of women who are sent on for breast biopsy.

SoftScan is still in the development phase; ART is planning to start multicenter trials for the product in the fall of 2003. The product will require a premarket approval (PMA) application. GE and ART are also going to cooperate in the development of optical imaging applications outside the breast, the companies said.

In addition to the clinical component of the deal, GE is optimistic about working with ART to develop technologies that can be used in other areas of molecular imaging, such as drug development. GE has relationships in place with pharmaceutical firms like GlaxoSmithKline and Amersham Health, and ART’s technology could be used in the drug-discovery process, according to Eric Stahre, general manager of GE’s genomics and molecular imaging division.

By staff writers
October 25, 2002

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