GE plans acquisition of PET device maker Coincidence Technologies

September 5, 2001

GE Medical Systems has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a key provider of PET technology. Coincidence Technologies, however, does not make positron scanners or the cyclotrons that forge PET radiopharmaceuticals. Rather, the company makes products

GE Medical Systems has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a key provider of PET technology. Coincidence Technologies, however, does not make positron scanners or the cyclotrons that forge PET radiopharmaceuticals. Rather, the company makes products that work in concert with cyclotrons to synthesize fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and other positron-emitting compounds.

”The company is extremely complementary to what we do in functional imaging,” said Thomas Hook, global PET general manager for GE. “It is the piece that we really wanted to add to the business to have the premium offering for PET scanners, cyclotrons, and chemistry.”

The agreement to buy Coincidence Technologies was announced Aug. 27 at the European Association of Nuclear Medicine Annual Congress in Naples, Italy, and GE executives expect the deal to close by the end of September. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Hook described the company, which is based in Liëge, Belgium, as a long-time ally. Coincidence synthesizers have been installed at multiple GE sites, he said.

”We look at this (acquisition) as a continuation of the direction we have been going,” he said. “By acquiring the company, we can integrate the technology within GE.”

The product fills a critical niche in the practice of positron imaging. Since the advent of this modality some 30 years ago, its clinical adoption has been hampered by limited access to the cyclotron-produced isotopes.

At more than a million dollars, cyclotrons are expensive, but their operation can be even more so. Highly skilled staff, including those at the doctoral level, have been required to generate the FDG and other PET radiopharmaceuticals necessary for positron imaging. The FDG synthesizer developed by Coincidence Technologies automates the final crucial processing steps, which determine the quantity and quality of the compound. The synthesizer generates FDG yields in excess of 60%, according to executives from the two companies. The above average yields allow cyclotron users to generate more FDG per production run.

”The idea behind the technology is to make the synthesis of FDG very routine,” Hook said. “It lowers the training and chemistry requirements for an operator of a cyclotron facility. Combined with a GE cyclotron unit, a Coincidence synthesizer offers our customers the highest production capability, the shortest preparation time, and the simplest operation.”

At least for the time being, GE customers will not be the only ones with access to the synthesizer. Jean-Luc Morelle, managing director of Coincidence Technologies, said the company will likely continue to sell products to end users through its distributors, Bioscan in the U.S. and NKP in Japan, even after the acquisition is complete.

”The company comes with its distributor agreements, and it is a matter mainly of GE dealing with those agreements in a way that is most profitable for all parties,” said Morelle, who will continue in his current position after the acquisition is finalized.

The FDG synthesizer is in demand not only for its yield, but for its efficiency. The product makes a batch of FDG in just 23 minutes. No laboratory preparation is necessary. A reagent set provided by the company includes all the required chemicals. The chemicals are packed in color-coded crimp-capped containers that connect to a kit assembly made of disposable components. The completely automated procedure is performed in a closed system, but the processing can be viewed visually and monitored electronically. After synthesis, the used kit is removed and the next production cycle can begin. The company advertises 99% reliability and a prepurification and hydrolysis method that ensures high yield.

Other companies, including GE, make FDG synthesizers. None of these devices, however, compares to the Coincidence product, according to Hook.

”Our technology does not have the yield capability,” he said. “There are other competitors as well, but they are not anywhere near the capability of the Coincidence synthesizer.”

Coincidence Technologies has achieved this success in a surprisingly short time. The company was founded in 1996 specifically for the development and manufacture of chemical systems used in the production and handling of radiolabeled compounds. The company has grown largely on the back of its FDG synthesizer, which was commercially released in late 1998. Its popularity has increased with the rising tide of PET imaging sites. Coincidence synthesizers have been installed on cyclotrons in at least seven European countries, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.

The product is one of several made by Coincidence Technologies. The company can put together a turnkey FDG product laboratory. Among the components are a fluorination unit, vial dispenser, hot cells design, equipment for laboratory quality control, a tailored fluorine-18 target, and 15O-water generator. The company also provides training and support for starting up a PET radiopharmaceutical operation.

The 15O-water generator is designed to meet a need that has yet to develop fully in clinical PET, although clinical sites have used the oxygen isotope extensively over the past several decades. Positron-emitting water has been used as a tracer for cerebral blood flow and myocardial blood perfusion. The 15O-water generator solves the logical problems created by the isotopeπs short half-life (just over two minutes).

GE strategists plan to build on the FDG and 15O-water technologies to create new and enhanced PET-handling products. Hook and his colleagues at GE are looking at fluorine-, oxygen-, and carbon-based systems, as well as some that include other, less well known, positron-emitting isotopes.

”I donπt think we can know every single development that is going to be needed in the future,” he said. “That is the idea behind having Coincidence Technologies at the heart of the chemistry division of GEãto be able to do the innovation internally and leverage it in the future.”

The acquisition of this company, with its technology and expertise, is part of a grand scheme, said Beth Klein, vice president and global general manager of functional and molecular imaging for GE. The strategy is to pursue and develop new opportunities in molecular imaging.

”We see noninvasive imaging of disease-specific markers as the direction that healthcare is headed,” Klein said. “In order to get there, we have to tag markers with the right chemistry. That is the competency that the Coincidence team brings us.”