Hologic and Siemens partner up to battle GE in digital mammography

August 14, 2002

Five-year deal calls for technology sharingThe deal is done. Hologic and Siemens have finalized their partnership in digital mammography, cementing mutual sourcing agreements for components of a full-field digital system that were

Five-year deal calls for technology sharing

The deal is done. Hologic and Siemens have finalized their partnership in digital mammography, cementing mutual sourcing agreements for components of a full-field digital system that were hinted at late last fall. The unfolding alliance was first publicly disclosed at the RSNA meeting in November (SCAN 12/26/02). In late July, executives from the two companies signed three definitive agreements, which will span five years.

One commits Siemens to purchasing the flat-panel detectors for its full-field system exclusively from Hologic. Until about three years ago, Siemens had planned to use an amorphous silicon panel developed by Trixell, a French firm in which Siemens and Philips are jointly vested. Shortcomings in the basic technology led Trixell to back away from developing such a panel. To fill this void, Siemens has enlisted Hologic to adapt the DirectRay amorphous selenium digital detector being built for the Lorad Selenia mammography system to fit Siemens' own full-field product.

"With Siemens and Hologic offering a selenium detector, selenium will become the standard in the industry," said Glenn Muir, Hologic executive vice president and CFO.

The second agreement calls for Hologic to license image processing and display software from Siemens affiliate MeVis BreastCare. This software is the foundation for the physician's workstation that accompanies Hologic's digital Lorad Selenia mammography system. It will serve the same purpose in Siemens' work-in-progress mammography system.

"This has been a joint effort with MeVis on what the two of us (Siemens and Hologic) have wanted to see," Muir said. "MeVis has been extremely responsive."

The third agreement details how Hologic will help Siemens create its own full-field system. Some of that help will involve sharing clinical data obtained by Hologic in support of its own full-field system, which is built around the DirectRay detector. The agreement specifically allows Siemens to refer to the premarket approval application submitted by Hologic to the FDA. Early last month, the company received an approvable letter from the agency, indicating that the application would very likely be approved, pending an FDA inspection of the plant where the product is to be manufactured. When DI SCAN went to press, a date for the inspection had not yet been scheduled, but Muir was confident that final approval would be obtained within several months. Approval of Hologic's Lorad Selenia should help Siemens, since the German company's product will include the same detector and data processing software.

"It is basically a time-to-market acceleration agreement, a partnership whereby we are providing certain clinical data to allow them to file a PMA earlier than they would otherwise have been able to do," he said.

Collaboration, cross-licensing, and even technology sharing among companies have grown increasingly common. An obvious example is the alliance between Siemens and Philips, which codevelop certain technologies built into each other's quad- and 16-slice CT scanners. The upside is shorter time to market and lower costs. The downside is the potential confusion this type of sharing can cause among prospective customers about which system, if either, is better. Muir believes no such confusion will arise regarding full-field digital mammography systems that come out of the agreements between Siemens and Hologic.

"We are comfortable with our customer base and their dedication to our product line," he said. "We think our product will be different enough from that of Siemens."

Hologic claims to have the largest installed base of conventional mammography systems in the world, but its strength is in the U.S. The company is weaker in Europe, where Siemens is strongest, raising the prospect that the two companies will be able to market their selenium-based systems to largely complementary markets. Working together will help each of them control costs and better compete against a common competitor.

"We think that partnering is the way to win in this marketplace," Muir said. "The initial sales strategy of Hologic and Siemens is for us each to take care of our own customers and to jointly go after GE."