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General Electric, Abbott Dx, Pfizer, XDx, Warnex, Schering-Plough

GE Healthcare Acquires Abbott’s In Vitro Dx Division; Abbott Retains Molecular Dx Unit
GE Healthcare announced last week its plans to buy Abbott Technologies’ in vitro and point-of-care divisions for $8.13 billion in cash.
The deal does not include Abbott’s molecular diagnostics unit. Neither GE nor Abbott would comment on whether the molecular diagnostics unit was for sale.
For the time, GE officials are remaining tight-lipped on the firm’s strategy for the in vitro diagnostics market. However, it is well known that GE has been eyeing the in vitro diagnostic space since it acquired Amersham in 2004. Acquisition of the Abbott business positions GE as the second largest player in that market behind Roche.
Last month, GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt indicated he was looking to expand the company’s healthcare business and add new platforms through acquisitions, saying the company has “always wanted to build a broader diagnostics company,” according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, which cited “people familiar with the matter.”
The Abbott news comes one month after GE said it would abandon its CodeLink microarray business. Since acquiring Amersham, “our prospects to profitably grow [the CodeLink] product long-term have fallen short of expectations, and as a result GE has decided to discontinue the CodeLink printed microarray product line during early 2007,” a GE spokesperson told Pharmacogenomics Reporter sister publication BioArray News.
During a conference call last week about the deal, Abbott said it will retain its diabetes care segment, and that the divestitures underscore the firm’s intention to streamline and maintain an emphasis on its molecular brand in the diagnostics field.
The company has been growing its molecular Dx division since it acquired Vysis in 2001 for roughly $355 million. A year later Abbott forged an alliance with Celera, under which the firms expect to soon launch an avian influenza virus test that would run on Abbott’s m2000 real-time PCR-based platform. The m2000 is currently available in Europe with CE Mark certification and is pending 510(k) clearance with the US Food and Drug Administration.
Abbott also intends to launch new tests in Europe based on fluorescent in situ hybridization that will identify chromosomal abnormalities linked to leukemia. These CE-marked DNA probe diagnostics could in the future be used in a variety of applications in cancer and genetic testing, the company said.

Pfizer Site Closings, Layoffs Will Likely Have Little Impact on PGx R&D
As part of a conference call with investors this week, Pfizer reported a reorganization plan that involves the closing of several facilities and the elimination of some 10,000 positions worldwide.
In its effort to “establish a smaller and more flexible cost base,” the company said it will reduce its total worldwide workforce by 10 percent by the end of 2008. The layoffs comprise US sales force reductions and a 20 percent cut in its European field force.
In line with its plan to “consolidate its worldwide manufacturing operations” from 93 sites to 48 by 2008, Pfizer announced it would close two manufacturing sites in Brooklyn, NY, and Omaha, Neb., and sell a third site in Feucht, Germany. In research and development, the company is planning to close three research sites in Michigan, as well as in Nagoya, Japan, and Amboise, France.
While the company would not explicitly say whether its reorganization will have an impact on PGx research, a spokesman highlighted that part of the “the fundamental changes … are [also] to triple the Phase III pipeline by 2009 and the priorities … are to increase the company’s agility with the company’s current spend.”
Hakan Sakul, senior director of molecular profiling at Pfizer Global Research & Development, recently discussed with Pharmacogenomics Reporter Pfizer’s current areas of focus and future plans in the arena of pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine [see PGx Reporter 12-13-06].
Additionally, Pfizer appears steadfast in its previously announced plan to launch two new externally sourced products each year beginning in 2010. “To expand future revenues, Pfizer is taking a number of actions to deliver more products of greater value more quickly,” the company said in a release. “The company will step up its research and development investment in areas that are especially promising.”
Last week, Pfizer and Genizon announced a collaboration agreement that will enable Pfizer to use Genizon’s technology to discover diagnostic markers linked to Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and endometriosis. As part of the deal, Pfizer agreed to also buy an undisclosed stake in Genizon [see PGx Reporter 01-17-07].
Genizon did not respond to queries regarding the potential impact of Pfizer’s reorganization plans on the collaboration.

Warnex Inks Pharmacogenetics Services Deal with Schering-PloughCanada
Warnex Medical Laboratories will develop several new pharmacogenetic assays for Schering-Plough Canada, Warnex said last week.
Under the agreement, Warnex said it will supply pharmacogenetic and molecular biology services for Schering-Plough’s clinical trials for cancer and infectious disease therapeutics.
Warnex said the company is using its services to identify patients who are more likely to respond to a treatment or who are less likely to have an adverse event.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

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