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Wang Discusses Siemens Future in Molecular Imaging, Dx

David G. Wang, M.D., Ph.D.
Director of Molecular Medicine Business Development
Siemens Medical Solutions

Siemens recently created a new molecular imaging division to pursue further development of its own imaging technologies as well as those acquired along with CTI Molecular Imaging last month (see feature article in this week's issue). The firm has increasingly made its presence known in the molecular biology tools space through a series of collaborations with the idea that these tools will eventually act synergistically with its imaging technologies in a personalized healthcare environment.

This week, David Wang, director of molecular medicine business development at Siemens Medical Solutions, talked with BioCommerce Week about the firm's emerging molecular imaging technologies and the firm's potential role in the molecular biology tools market. Wang joined Siemens this year, after co-founding First Genetic Trust, where he also served as executive vice president of research, technology and strategy. He also previously served as director of applied genomics and informatics at Motorola Life Sciences, working on the development and launch of the CodeLink microarray platform, before the unit was bought by Amersham.

What is your title and what do you do in that role?

I am director of molecular medicine business development at Siemens Medical Solutions, where we have two groups: one is molecular medicine, which is my group. We cover molecular diagnostics and molecular imaging. The second group is called knowledge-driven medicine. We want to look into what will be the next thing on top of our existing businesses in the healthcare IT [market].

Let's start with molecular imaging then. How long has the company been working on it and what sort of progress have you made? When do you imagine a product will be fully developed?

Molecular imaging, I'm not sure how long [we've been working on it]. As you probably know, we announced a couple of years ago a strategic alliance with MGH Harvard Partners and Dr. Weissleder, he is the leader in the molecular imaging area. And we have a strategic collaboration with him to look at the future of imaging equipment and software and some of the novel contrast agents. We are also looking into some preclinical activities with him.

Another thing we announced a couple of months ago was that we acquired a company called CTI Molecular Imaging. So, after that our nuclear medicine group was re-launched [and is] now called Siemens Molecular Imaging. Clearly, we realized a number of years ago that molecular imaging is one of the very promising areas for the future.

Siemens is primarily thought of as an imaging company, but over the past few years there appears to be a greater push for the company to become involved in other areas, such as molecular diagnostics. Would you say this is the case and can you talk about some of the other things Siemens is looking at in the molecular biology field?

I think it's quite simple. As you probably know, we've got the diagnostic imaging business, and we think it's very straight forward — [in] the future both imaging diagnostics and molecular diagnostics will converge. In that case, we asked ourselves if we should look strategically into both in vivo and in vitro diagnostics. In general, we think those two things in the future will provide diagnostic information to physicians, not just to the radiologist. So, in general, we want to look into the entire diagnostics space.

But right now, you don't have any sort of in vitro diagnostics business?

We don't. We are looking into that.

What, if any, is the connection between what you're doing with Sequenom and the recent purchase of Infineon's biochip technology business?

It's very simple. In diagnostics, the strong growth is in molecular diagnostics. Nucleic acid testing is an area that has gotten a lot of attention. The chip program at Infineon is linked to our internal program. We have a lot of broader competencies, such as electronics and conductors, and Infineon is a spin out of Siemens. So they have a biochip division … and internally we have been developing the electronic detection-based biochip technology.

One thing that is very simple for us, strategically, is anything that is able to increase the quality of care we do, anything that can decrease the cost of healthcare we do. In that case, you can imagine the electronic detection-based technology — looking to the future of near-patient technology — we think that can introduce tremendous value to the entire healthcare system.

We also have an internal program called Quicklab, and its entire focus is on building the next-generation technologies for near-patient testing in the nucleic acid area using electronic detection systems.

The Siemens Corporate Research group in New Jersey is working on a personalized healthcare research program. Is Siemens Medical Solutions involved with that research and is there an expectation that your group will eventually further develop and market products out of that research?

People talk about personalized healthcare as the future, but for us, because we have a very strong position in the healthcare IT area, and we have strong leadership in imaging diagnostics, and we are thinking diagnostics strategically, in general, we believe the future personal healthcare should be the convergence of those technologies. We see this larger overarching trend and strategically we want to look at those areas together.

GE Healthcare became a major player in the molecular biology tools market when it purchased Amersham. Do you think Siemens will follow a similar path?

At Siemens we always asks ourselves how can we bring better products to our customers that we already have. But the question first is are we going to add more value to our existing customers in the clinical market or not. We have our own agenda looking at the future of healthcare. Our strategy is how can we increase the quality of care globally and how can we decrease the cost globally. We think about that first before we move into any new businesses.

A few years down the road, do you see Siemens being a major player in the molecular biology field? Will the firm be looking to strictly serve the patient side or do you think you will be more involved in the research market?

I think once that link [between research and clinical diagnostic applications] becomes apparent to us, I don't see there's anything we don't want to do. Over the past few years, the distance between clinical research and clinical diagnostics becomes shorter and shorter. Clearly, we are watching that — genomic research, biomarkers, preclinical research.

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