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Imaging is everything
June 2011
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


CHALFONT ST. GILES, U.K.—With the expectation that complementary capabilities in cellular imaging will advance development of technologies for cell biology research, GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric Co., is acquiring Seattle area-based Applied Precision Inc. for an undisclosed sum.  
The addition of what GE called a "high-growth business" is expected to allow GE Healthcare to expand its offering of products and services for pharmaceutical and life science research. The two companies maintain that the strategic fit between them, combined with expanded capabilities in product development and marketing, will offer significant long-term customer benefits.
"Applied Precision is a company with a strong reputation for innovation and is a great strategic fit with our Cell Technologies business," says Kieran Murphy, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Life Sciences. "The combination of GE Healthcare's expertise in cell science, together with the great talent of the team at Applied Precision, will help us drive development of new technologies and create an extensive offering across the full spectrum of cell biology research."  
"The worldwide resources of GE Healthcare will allow us to significantly widen our reach into new markets and provide a stronger support network for our existing customers," adds Joe Victor, CEO of Applied Precision.
GE Healthcare already has a strong presence in the cellular imaging market, notes Amr Abid, general manager of GE's Cell Technologies division. The flagship product in that area, he notes, is the IN Cell imaging system. Originally launched in 2002, it is used by pharmaceutical companies and cell biology research laboratories worldwide for automated high-content analysis, and Abid adds that GE Healthcare launched its latest version of IN Cell, the IN Cell 6000, in March.  
Applied Precision develops and manufactures high-resolution and super-resolution microscopy instruments with software and data visualization tools that together provide scientists with detailed information on the structure and behavior of live and fixed cells. As such, Applied Precision's proprietary technologies are said to be complementary to GE Healthcare's IN Cell systems, which are used for high-throughput subcellular analysis in cell biology research.
"Technologies for cellular and sub-cellular imaging are playing an increasingly critical role in many aspects of cell biology, drug discovery, toxicology and biomedical science. These technologies are central to increasing our understanding of the cellular processes and mechanisms behind human disease, and will be increasingly fundamental to many areas of cell biology research," Abid tells ddn. "The ability to see how cells behave when treated with a new potential drug, or how they respond to an infection, is incredibly powerful. The cost of late-stage drug failures and the rapid increase in the number of biopharmaceuticals under development are just two examples of the market forces driving the need for very high-resolution and high-content cellular imaging."  
The focus of the Cell Technologies business of GE Healthcare is to bring new and innovative technologies to this market, Abid notes, and the combination of Applied Precision's technology will assist that process. It's also a high-growth area, he notes, pointing out that super-resolution and high-resolution microscopy are relatively new technologies— Nature named super-resolution fluorescence microscopy as "Technique of the year in 2008"—but the demand for this area of technology has grown dramatically and Applied Precision's sales have been growing at 20 percent per year.
Abid tells ddn that it's premature to talk about next steps in how Applied Precision and GE might specifically work together or even what GE's next move will be in its plans to expand its life sciences footprint, as the acquisition hasn't closed as of press time. However, he says, the Cell Technologies division is a key business for GE Healthcare's Life Sciences business.
"Cellular imaging is a key enabling technology to many areas of biomedical science," he says. "We are also active in stem cells for biomedical research and in technologies that enable the new area of cell therapy. Cellular imaging is key to advances in all these areas."  
Abid says that GE intends to keep the Applied Precision facility in Issaquah, Wash., "to invest in it and in the highly talented Applied Precision team. This acquisition is very much about growth—it's about combining our technology expertise to develop new products and it's about bringing the Applied Precision products to new geographic markets. GE Healthcare Life Sciences has a strong presence in countries such as Japan, India, Brazil and China. Applied Precision has a very strong reputation in academia and we intend to build on that."
The acquisition, which is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, was expected to close in the second quarter of 2011.  
Code: E061104



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