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For Imaging Giant Philips, Molecular Medicine Deal With BGM May Foretell Proteomic Future

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Today, light bulbs. Tomorrow, proteomes?
 
As Philips Royal Electronics moves to build up its healthcare portfolio and ramp up research efforts in the life sciences arena, a company official told ProteoMonitor its recent molecular medicine R&D deal with BG Medicine could harken Philips’ entry into proteomics.
 
“Chances that we are moving into that area are relatively large,” said Ronald Wolf, strategy and business development manager at Philips.
 
Philips, best known for its consumer electronics, medical imaging, and light bulbs businesses, is still sorting out how to apply the BGM technology, and it is impossible to predict what fruits the agreement will bear fruit. But according to Wolf, “we’re interested in three areas: DNA, RNA, and proteomics. The choice that we’re going to make is dependent on the outcome of the work [that we do] with BGM.”
 
Based in Waltham, Mass., privately held BGM offers proprietary systems biology approaches “that integrate multiple bioanalytical platforms such as proteomics and metabolomics with powerful bioinformatics and computational analysis,” BGM said in a press release 
 
As part of its agreement, Philips will have preferential access to certain BGM proprietary biomarker discovery and validation technologies and associated services. Philips will also buy a 6 percent stake in BGM.
 
As a designer and manufacturer of imaging devices such as positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, Philips is no stranger to the medical instruments market. What it has lacked, Wolf said, is the ability “to see what is happening on a more delicate level. There is technology that allows us to go as far as the cell level to see what is going on.
 
“But in fact what we would like to do in the end [is] to see what is going on on a molecular level,” he said.
 
The deal with BGM, he said, represents a change in Philips’ medical systems research “to see what we can do in areas other than the typical imaging modalities that we are marketing worldwide.”
 

“Chances that we are moving into [the proteomics] area are relatively large.”

Philips’ deal with BGM also comes as Philips shifts greater focus on its healthcare and medical operations. Earlier in the month the company announced an agreement to sell 80.1 percent of its semiconductor business to a private European investment consortium. At the time Philips President and CEO Gerard Kleisterlee said the transaction would allow the company to “fully focus” on its healthcare and lifestyle businesses.
 
Philips is also scheduled to open its 20,000-square-foot Life Sciences Facilities in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, in October. According to the company, the LSF will be a multi-disciplinary research facility where all molecular medicine research can be done.
 
“For instance, cellular assays, amongst other things, are set up to test the effects of newly developed substances on human cells. In vitro diagnostic tests on human material will also be developed here, based on novel biosensing technologies which are able to identify in a sensitive and specific way characteristic substances in different body fluids, such as blood or saliva,” the company said in a written statement.
 
“If you take a look at the total amount of research, about one-third of the total Philips research nowadays is devoted to health care,” up from about 10 percent a few years ago, Wolf said.
 
In 2005, Philips spent €526 million [$410 million] on R&D, or 20.6 percent of its total R&D expenditure, in its medical systems division, according to its annual report.
 
While Philips will be using BGM’s technology, in part, for biomarker discovery, Wolf said that Philips has not yet identified specific disease areas it will be researching. In a press release on the alliance between the two companies, however, BGM President and CEO Pieter Muntendam pointed to cardiovascular disease and oncology as areas of research.
 
Said Wolf, “…we are broadly [taking inventory of] what we can do in the various areas that provide us with future markets and also potential technology positions that we can build upon in the years to come.”

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