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GE to Continue to Grow MegaBACE Following Amersham Acquisition; Biosciences Assets Have Bright Future

This update serves to clarify Trevor Hawkins' title. He is senior vice president of development and new business initiatives in the discovery systems business, not vice president of business development.

NEW YORK, April 8 (GenomeWeb News) - GE will continue to support the genomics technologies that were developed under the discovery systems and protein-separations flags of Amersham Biosciences, a top GE official told GenomeWeb News today.


Trevor Hawkins, senior vice president of development and new business initiatives in the discovery systems business, said the MegaBACE platform, the CodeLink DNA chip, the TempliPhi DNA preparation kits, as well as the protein-analysis technologies and informatics tools developed at Amersham Biosciences have "a very bright future." He also said that GE "sees the field of DNA sequencing is extremely central to us. ... "


"We see that [for] MegaBACE and all of our DNA sequencing applications -- whether it be the MegaBACE, TempliPhi, our enzymes, our dyes -- we will continue to supply those to the research field," Hawkins said. "But we also have begun a path of moving into the diagnostics field." He was referring to a recent partnership Amersham penned with Bayer to co-develop a suite of infectious-disease tests based on the MegaBase technology.


Hawkins said it is "too early to tell" if any of these technologies will experience a boost in R&D funding courtesy of GE, but stressed that "we will continue to develop the MegaBase, continue to develop our enzymes and our dyes, because we see us as a continually important area."


He added that GE Healthcare is "only one of two companies that can provide solutions both in the research and diagnostic space for RNA and DNA sequencing. We view this as a growing and important area ... and really critical in diagnostics."


Hawkins spoke today following a short conference call announcing the formal integration of Amersham into GE. The £5.7 billion ($9.5 billion) acquisition was announced last October. The deal broke GE's Healthcare division, which is expected to post $14 billion in 2004 revenues, into two units: Healthcare Technologies, which is worth $11 billion this year and will be run by Joe Hogan, and Healthcare Biosciences, which is worth $3 billion and will be overseen by Peter Loescher. Hogan's group will control GE's medical imaging, services, and IT businesses, while Loescher's unit will operate Amersham's discovery systems and protein-separations businesses.


The Healthcare division employs 42,000 staffers worldwide, though the breakdown between Healthcare Technologies and Healthcare Biosciences was not immediately clear. The entire division is overseen by Bill Castell, who was named President and CEO of GE Healthcare. He had been CEO of Amersham.


In his interview with GenomeWeb News today, Hawkins said GE officials have begun to consider how the company can "take the products and services ... in discovery systems and protein separations and begin to apply those in the market that are served on the other side of the business in the mainstream health-care market."


He stressed that one of GE Healthcare's goals is to combine the firm's imaging platforms with the myriad technologies developed within Amersham's erstwhile two business units -- Healthcare and Biosciences -- to create products that stretch from the research phase, such as the MegaBACE and CodeLink platforms, to the "bedside" phase, such as medical imaging.


For example, Hawkins described a hypothetical scenario in which a physician prescribes a positron emission scan along with a microarray-based test. "There's in vivo imaging from the PET [scan], but there's also information that has just come back from ... a SNP-based assay courtesy of CodeLink." He said in this case researchers or customers would use Amersham's informatics platforms to integrate these two distinct sets of data. He said it was too soon to elaborate.


"We see that there's going to be some great growth potentials here," Hawkins said.


GE Healthcare will be based in

Chalfont St.Giles, UK
. GE Healthcare Technologies will be headquartered in Waukesha, Wis., and Healthcare Biosciences will located in Little Chalfont, UK. It was not immediately clear whether staff changes, including layoffs or additional hires, will take place at any of these locations. Piscataway, NJ, will continue to be the headquarters of the discovery systems business.

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