Amersham, GE united by personalized medicine

FRAMINGHAM (10/21/2003) - After two years of discussions, General Electric Co. (GE) acquired Amersham Biosciences in a whopping US$9.5 billion deal announced Oct. 10. The new combined business, GE Healthcare Technologies, will be led by Amersham's Chief Executive Officer, Sir William Castell. Recently, Andrew Carr, president of Discovery Systems at Amersham Biosciences, discussed the deal and the two-companies' shared vision, with Bio-IT World reporter Malorye A. Branca.

Q: What was the major attraction between the two companies?

A: We obviously saw a lot of synergies. It's immediately obvious, for example, to see how the GE instrumentation can be paired with Amersham reagents, and how Amersham can help GE penetrate the pharmaceutical research market. But Amersham has also been working for more than five years on enabling molecular and personalized medicine, which is only starting to become available, and in few parts of the world. GE shares that vision, and has a powerful brand and market franchise.

Q: How will the jointly developed projects roll out?

A: For now, we have to keep our focus on existing customers, and not drop the ball while the deal is going through the regulatory authorities. Immediately after we conclude the deal, we will be putting together our skill sets to make better in vivo diagnostics based on imaging. We'll see the first immediate benefit by matching the Amersham reagents with hardware for body imaging, along with software for imaging algorithms and for downloading and managing the data.

Next, we'll work on leveraging the GE assets to create a broader product offering to research community. For example, some of the imaging tests today, can be used in clinical trials. We also see opportunity for imaging in basic drug discovery - finding new targets, and in other areas such as toxicology and ADME [absorption, digestion, metabolism, and excretion studies].

Beyond that, the third wave will be more advanced molecular imaging, as we begin to see some of the research technology, such as DNA sequencing and gene expression, moving into the clinic. Examples might be tests monitoring HIV resistance, or gene signatures profiling diseases. That represents a new era in molecular medicine.

Q: Were there other suitors?

A: Amersham has had a very open mind for a quite a number of years about how this market would develop. So we have been actively talking to a number of companies. But GE emerged quickly as the one we felt had an excellent vision, which was the closest to our own.

For more on the deal and its implications, see the December issue of Bio-IT World.

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