This story originally appeared in Biocommerce Week, a newsletter that has been discontinued.
Marking another step in its evolving molecular diagnostics strategy, Royal Philips Electronics last week signed a deal to collaborate with Dutch biotech firm Organon to discover and validate biomarkers for psychiatric disorders and cancer.
The alliance is an example of Philips’ plans to use its molecular imaging technologies to get more involved in the emerging molecular diagnostics market. However, Philips officials declined to discuss the firm’s plans for that market or whether it believes an acquisition will be necessary to compete with industry heavyweights Siemens and GE Healthcare.
The firms will use Philips’ molecular imaging technologies to study the effects of Organon’s drugs at the molecular level. Specifically, Organon scientists will work at Philips’ facilities to identify and validate new biomarkers.
In a statement, Rick Harwig, chief technology officer of Philips, said that the combined technologies and expertise of the firms “will definitely speed up the evolution of our imaging modalities into tools to image the body at the molecular level. In addition, they will enable new opportunities in molecular diagnostics.”
Hans Hofstraat, vice president of Philips Research in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, said that the first projects in the collaboration will focus on disorders of the central nervous system and cancer. “Expansion of the collaboration to other areas is in principle not excluded, but at the moment not foreseen,” he told BioCommerce Week via e-mail.
Though Philips is known in the medical field primarily as an imaging company, it also has a biosensor platform, and Hofstraat said it is possible biomarkers could be utilized in that system.
“The collaboration with Organon is primarily focused on the application of molecular imaging technologies to speed up the development and approval of new drugs and therapies and, additionally, apply them to monitor the effect of these drugs in patients and customize the treatment program,” said Hofstraat. “If particular biomarkers are discovered, which are suitable for measurement with biosensors, we will certainly consider their deployment.”
The Organon alliance follows a deal with BG Medicine announced last summer, under which the firms are developing next-generation products for molecular imaging and point-of-care diagnostic applications (see BioCommerce Week 8/16/2006). The partners are using BG’s systems profiling technologies that identify biomarker sets associated with disease stage, progression, and treatment, and intend to apply biomarker findings to Philips’ in vivo and in vitro diagnostic offerings.
In October, Philips opened a large life sciences facility that is focused on molecular medicine and includes its molecular imaging and in vitro biosensor technologies. It also will include the biomarker discoveries from the BG and Organon collaborations.
“If particular biomarkers are discovered, which are suitable for measurement with biosensors, we will certainly consider their deployment.”
The BG alliance was followed earlier this year by a collaborative effort forged between Philips, BG, AstraZeneca, Merck, and Humana. The partners formed the High-Risk Plaque Initiative to research and manage high-risk cardiovascular plaque. Part of the initiative involves combining biomarker characterization with quantitative imaging techniques.
Like its rivals Siemens and GE Healthcare, Philips sees a future convergence of in vivo and in vitro technologies in the medical diagnostics field. Unlike the others, thus far Philips has stayed focused on internal developments and alliances in pursuing this convergence.
Siemens splashed the cash last year to rapidly expand its clinical and molecular diagnostics business. The firm acquired Bayer Diagnostics for roughly $5.25 billion several months after its nearly $2 billion acquisition of Diagnostic Products Corp. (see BioCommerce Week 7/5/2006).
GE Healthcare kept pace with its $8.13 billion deal earlier this year to acquire Abbott’s diagnostics business (see BioCommerce Week 1/24/2007). The deal does not include Abbott’s molecular diagnostics unit, and GE officials have remained mum on the firm’s strategy for that fast-growing market — though it has many tools and chemistries at its disposal that could be applied to the molecular diagnostics field.
Meanwhile, industry observers have speculated that imaging firms such as Philips and Hitachi could make the next move in the M&A market and bid for a clinical diagnostics firm.
Philips officials declined to answer questions regarding the firm’s plans for the diagnostics market but said the topic was on the agenda for its analyst day later this week.