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Business briefs

Merge releases PACS upgrade

Released in late January, Fusion Matrix PACS version 2.1 introduces reading enhancements, including the ability to query and retrieve studies from third-party DICOM sources, reserve studies, and mark studies as preliminary. Other new tools include triangulation, which lets the user define a target point on an image to view the corresponding anatomic position in other series.

EMC upgrades storage platform

New storage and virtualization capabilities built into EMC products simplify and extend information life cycle management. The Symmetrix DMX-3 now scales up to 1 petabyte of storage. Enhancements to Centera content-addressed storage include event-based retention and litigation hold software, which automatically sets the retention period for seven years, as mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It adheres to regulations and eliminates the need for manual intervention, removing the chance of human error. New file virtualization capabilities improve the management of information across network attached storage environments.

InSiteOne readies archive feature for HIMSS debut

ExamReady, an upgrade to InSiteOne's InDex Archive product, will debut at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting in mid-February. The new feature enables immediate access to prior exams through temporary onsite storage, placing these exams in InSiteOne's InDex Nearline and Online configurations. This approach will allow sites, regardless of access to a RIS or PACS, to call up prior studies for immediate review and forwarding to specialized modality workstations.

IT suppliers plan to merge

Avocent, a supplier of IT connectivity devices, agreed in late January to acquire Cyclades, a privately held firm specializing in equipment that allows centralized and distributed networks to access, monitor, and manage IT infrastructure. Avocent will pay $90 million in cash, assume Cyclades' liabilities, and pay certain transaction costs. The acquisition, expected to close in the first quarter of 2006, is designed to position Avocent to expand its management platform and provide a strong presence in the Linux server and networking infrastructure markets. Cyclades had unaudited revenues of approximately $60 million in 2005. Avocent revenues exceeded $365 million in 2004.

Three-D software aids fusion imaging

Able software has released a new version of its 3D-Doctor, a vector-based volumetric imaging, modeling, and measurement package for CT, MR, microscopy, and volumetric images. The new version registers images of different modalities, displaying both the source and target image in 3D. The software can also be commanded to interactively rotate, move, and stretch the source image until it fits the target. An animation function creates movies.

Barco launches 2-megapixel color display

PACS have a new means for image display, the Nio Color 2MP from Barco. The color monitor, which features a 2-megapixel (1600 x 1200 resolution) 20.1-inch LCD, comes with a high-performance display controller specially designed to support 3D PACS. The PCI Express display controller features fast image download speeds and optimized 3D operations through OpenGL and Microsoft DirectX 9.0.

Studies in Japan target CAD performance

Medicsight will initiate in Japan eight clinical studies designed to determine the performance of the company's ColonCAD and LungCAD software for Japanese patient groups. The studies are jointly sponsored by Medicsight and the Japan National Cancer Center.

Merge eMed schedules user meeting

This year's user group meeting for Merge eMed's RIS, PACS, and clinical application customers will be held May 7 to 9 in Boston. Merge staff will give presentations on applications and recognize best practices of their customers. Participants will provide feedback on product road maps and develop relationships among users for postmeeting networking.

TomoTherapy extends global reach

The developer of a CT-guided linear accelerator, TomoTherapy, has landed four sales of its Hi-Art Systems in major German universities. Company executives believe the sales are a sign that the Wisconsin company is becoming a truly global company. CEO Fred Robertson expects half the company's future orders to come from outside the U.S.

Fischer cuts service deal with Kodak

Kodak signed a deal with Fischer Imaging on Jan. 23 to provide service and support for Fischer's worldwide installed base of mammography equipment. Included are the SenoScan digital mammography and MammoTest stereotactic breast biopsy systems. Fischer sold the intellectual property rights to its mammography assets to Hologic on Sept. 29, 2005. Fischer, with Hologic's consent, granted Kodak a nonexclusive limited license to use certain of these assets, as needed to provide service and support. Under the agreement, Kodak's Health Group will provide postsale support, including telephone customer technical support and onsite equipment repair and maintenance to customers who enter into a Kodak service agreement.

VisualSonics expands into contrast media

Ultrasound developer VisualSonics is licensing a contrast agent from the University of Virginia that may be effective in quantifying myocardial perfusion. Efficacy will be evaluated initially in preclinical studies. The company expects to sell the agent eventually under the name Depo. The company's Vevo 770 ultrasound scanner is used in research by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, hospitals, and research centers to conduct genetic research, phenotypic study, and drug development.

Ultrasonix reaches milestone

Ultrasonix Medical shipped its 300th Sonix system in December 2005. The Sonix product series, introduced in May 2005, began shipping only three months earlier. The company is focusing sales efforts on private practice physicians. It claims to have sold units into multiple specialties, including emergency medicine, ob/gyn, internal medicine, and radiology.

Cytogen alleges breach of contract

Cytogen has filed a lawsuit against Advanced Magnetics for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The lawsuit, filed Jan. 25 in Massachusetts Superior Court, addresses the license agreement struck by Cytogen and Advanced Magnetics in 2000 regarding two pharmaceutical agents, Combidex and ferumoxytol. The agreement gives Cytogen the exclusive U.S. marketing rights to Combidex for all applications, as well as the exclusive U.S. right to market and sell ferumoxytol, an iron replacement therapeutic agent.

Advanced Magnetics received an approvable letter from the FDA almost a year ago for Combidex, which is designed to aid in the identification of cancerous lymph nodes, but the agency requested additional data to demonstrate efficacy. Cytogen's complaint seeks damages from Advanced Magnetics and asks that the company be forced to take all reasonable steps to secure FDA approval of Combidex.

McKesson revenues boom in Q3

Third quarter revenues at IT developer McKesson jumped 9% to $22.6 billion over the previous year's period, and net income rose 34% to $193 million, driven by strong operating results in pharmaceutical solutions and provider technologies segments. Increased revenues in pharmaceutical solutions during the quarter that ended Dec. 31 reflected new and expanded U.S. distribution agreements, revenues from the second quarter acquisition of D&K Healthcare Resources, and revenue growth in Canadian distribution operations, affected in part by slowed growth in McKesson's customer base.

In provider technologies, software and software systems revenues increased 38%, driven by continued strong demand for clinical and imaging software solutions and automation systems and increased implementations. McKesson continues to improve its implementation process, which is reducing the time it takes to install clinical products. Operating profit was up 36% to $38 million.

Mercury revenues show moderate rise in 2Q

Revenues for Mercury, a provider of high-performance embedded, real-time digital signal and image processing computer systems, rose 5.3% in the second quarter, reaching $62.5 million in the period ended Dec. 31, but net income totaled just $1.6 million, down from $6.8 million in the previous year's period. The company lowered expectations, forecasting a loss in 3Q and possibly at year's end. Financials may improve in the long run, however, with the introduction of new products and contributions from recently acquired Sohard and Echotek. Revenues for the quarter from commercial imaging and visualization were $15.2 million, representing 24% of the company's total revenues. Most of the income was from MR and digital x-ray markets.

Planar presents mixed results

Display systems vendor Planar Systems recorded sales of $57.1 million in the first fiscal quarter that ended Dec. 30, down from $63.1 million in the year-earlier period. Net income rose, however, to $1.5 million compared with $28,000 in the previous year's period. The medical segment recorded first quarter sales of $18 million, down about 13% compared with the first quarter a year ago. The company noted, however, the introduction of several new products at the 2005 RSNA meeting aimed at the growing market for digital imaging displays used primarily by radiologists. The six new products will begin shipping in the second and third quarters, according to the company.

Emageon reports record backlog

The backlog of sales orders for IT vendor Emageon products grew by Dec. 31 to a record $158 million, an increase of 34% over the backlog of $118 million a year earlier. Meanwhile, the company's acquisition of Camtronics in November 2005 expanded the company's customer base to a total of more than 600 hospitals. Camtronics offers the HeartSuite set of cardiology IT products. The two developments bode well for the company, which went public less than a year ago. Financial results for Q4 are scheduled for release Feb. 27.

Varian Medical Systems reports strong quarter

Oncology and x-ray products boosted earning, revenues, and net orders in the year's first fiscal quarter for Varian Medical Systems. The bottom line is likely to continue to rise as the company held an all-time record backlog of orders as the quarter closed Dec. 30. Emerging businesses in brachytherapy, security and inspection, and digital x-ray created the most pronounced growth, according to the company, which reported net earnings of $41 million on revenues of $334 million compared with net earnings of $40 million and revenues of $299 million in 1Q 2005.

Oncology systems revenues, which include revenues from brachytherapy products, totaled $276 million, up 11% from the first quarter of last fiscal year. This business recorded first-quarter net orders of $327 million, up 18% from the same period last year. Net orders rose 15% in North America and 21% in international markets.

Revenues for the x-ray products business, including tubes and digital flat-panel detectors, were $52 million, up 18% from the year-ago quarter. Demand for filmless x-ray for veterinary, medical, and dental imaging equipment and high-power CT x-ray tubes drove revenue growth.

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