Imaging is everything

GE Healthcare to acquire cellular imaging company Applied Precision as part of its life-science expansion plans

May 25, 2011
Jeffrey Bouley
CHALFONT ST. GILES, U.K.—With the expectation thatcomplementary capabilities in cellular imaging will advance development oftechnologies for cell biology research, GE Healthcare, a unit of GeneralElectric Co., is acquiring Seattle area-based Applied Precision Inc. for anundisclosed sum.
 
 
The addition of what GE called a "high-growth business" isexpected to allow GE Healthcare to expand its offering of products and servicesfor pharmaceutical and life science research. The two companies maintain thatthe strategic fit between them, combined with expanded capabilities in productdevelopment and marketing, will offer significant long-term customer benefits.
 
"Applied Precision is a company with a strong reputation forinnovation and is a great strategic fit with our Cell Technologies business,"says Kieran Murphy, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Life Sciences. "Thecombination of GE Healthcare's expertise in cell science, together with thegreat talent of the team at Applied Precision, will help us drive developmentof new technologies and create an extensive offering across the full spectrumof cell biology research."
 
 
"The worldwide resources of GE Healthcare will allow us tosignificantly widen our reach into new markets and provide a stronger supportnetwork for our existing customers," adds Joe Victor, CEO of Applied Precision.
 
GE Healthcare already has a strong presence in the cellularimaging market, notes Amr Abid, general manager of GE's Cell Technologiesdivision. The flagship product in that area, he notes, is the IN Cell imagingsystem. Originally launched in 2002, it is used by pharmaceutical companies andcell biology research laboratories worldwide for automated high-contentanalysis, and Abid adds that GE Healthcare launched its latest version of INCell, the IN Cell 6000, in March.
 
 
Applied Precision develops and manufactures high-resolutionand super-resolution microscopy instruments with software and datavisualization tools that together provide scientists with detailed informationon the structure and behavior of live and fixed cells. As such, AppliedPrecision's proprietary technologies are said to be complementary to GEHealthcare's IN Cell systems, which are used for high-throughput subcellularanalysis in cell biology research.
 
"Technologies for cellular and sub-cellular imaging areplaying an increasingly critical role in many aspects of cell biology, drugdiscovery, toxicology and biomedical science. These technologies are central to increasing our understanding of thecellular processes and mechanisms behind human disease, and will beincreasingly fundamental to many areas of cell biology research," Abid tells ddn. "The ability to see how cellsbehave when treated with a new potential drug, or how they respond to aninfection, is incredibly powerful. The cost of late-stage drug failures and therapid increase in the number of biopharmaceuticals under development are justtwo examples of the market forces driving the need for very high-resolution andhigh-content cellular imaging."
 
 
The focus of the Cell Technologies business of GE Healthcareis to bring new and innovative technologies to this market, Abid notes, and thecombination of Applied Precision's technology will assist that process. It'salso a high-growth area, he notes, pointing out that super-resolution and high-resolutionmicroscopy are relatively new technologies—Naturenamed super-resolution fluorescence microscopy as "Technique of the year in2008"—but the demand for this area of technology has grown dramatically and AppliedPrecision's sales have been growing at 20 percent per year.
 
Abid tells ddnthat it's premature to talk about next steps in how Applied Precision and GEmight specifically work together or even what GE's next move will be in itsplans to expand its life sciences footprint, as the acquisition hasn't closedas of press time. However, he says, the Cell Technologies division is a keybusiness for GE Healthcare's Life Sciences business.
 
"Cellular imaging is a key enabling technology to many areasof biomedical science," he says. "We are also active in stem cells forbiomedical research and in technologies that enable the new area of celltherapy. Cellular imaging is key to advances in all these areas."
 
 
Abid says that GE intends to keep the Applied Precisionfacility in Issaquah, Wash., "to invest in it and in the highly talentedApplied Precision team. This acquisition is very much about growth—it's aboutcombining our technology expertise to develop new products and it's aboutbringing the Applied Precision products to new geographic markets. GEHealthcare Life Sciences has a strong presence in countries such as Japan,India, Brazil and China. Applied Precision has a very strong reputation inacademia and we intend to build on that."
 
The acquisition, which is subject to customary closingconditions, including regulatory approvals, was expected to close in the secondquarter of 2011.
 
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