Minrad invests in image-guided market with acquisition of Greatbatch division

September 2, 1998

Company seeks to be key medical instruments providerSince the mid-1990s, medical imaging industry observers have been waiting for the image-guided surgery segment to come to fruition. Growth has been slow, but some medical device companies claim

Company seeks to be key medical instruments provider

Since the mid-1990s, medical imaging industry observers have been waiting for the image-guided surgery segment to come to fruition. Growth has been slow, but some medical device companies claim that the market is finally poised to take off.

One of those companies is Minrad of Orchard Park, NY, which hopes to become one of the dominant suppliers of components and devices used during image-guided surgical procedures. Minrad last month finalized its acquisition of the Greatbatch Scientific Division of Wilson Greatbatch (WGL) of Clarence, NY, in a deal that will give Minrad access to new lines of MRI-compatible surgical instruments.

WGL established the Greatbatch Scientific Division as an internal business unit in 1996 in an effort to develop surgical devices that could be used with MRI magnets, and the division holds about eight 510(k) clearances for endoscopy and laryngoscopy products. Greatbatch itself was established in 1970 by Wilson Greatbatch, inventor of the pacemaker.

The division's products include an MR-compatible endoscopy system, which enables surgeons to visualize anatomy and implement less invasive procedures. The system is particularly suited for head, neck, and spine procedures, and was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in July.

Greatbatch had been seeking an interventional radiology market partner so that it could better pursue its corporate strategy of supplying components to medical device OEMs rather than manufacturing the devices themselves, according to Richard Mott, group vice president. The company believed that Minrad, with its substantial involvement in CT and fluoroscopy, was a good match with Greatbatch Scientific's MR products.

Minrad has developed its dual-radiation targeting (DRTS) and Light Saber image-guided surgery technologies. The DRTS laser works with the Light Saber to align surgical tools accurately with the laser's beam. Minrad's Light Saber syringes, core tissue biopsy systems, and aspirating needles are used in x-ray applications, but the products' patents include CT and MRI.

Minrad executives see the Greatbatch Scientific Division acquisition as part of the company's larger corporate strategy of becoming a key provider of instrumentation for image-guided procedures. MR-guided interventions, including open-magnet procedures, should continue to grow substantially over the next two to six years, according to Bill Burns, chairman and CEO of Minrad.

"What's driving (the image-guided market) is that people believe that over the long-term, image-guided surgery has the potential to cut costs as much as 75% for things like brain tumor and partial liver resections," Burns said. "We're building the instruments to do MR image-guided surgery because we strongly believe manufacturers will increase visualization capabilities, and that there will be other people like us that are pioneering in the area of visualization."

Minrad names fluoroscopy as the most mature segment of the image-guided market, but believes that attention is shifting to MR. Reimbursement uncertainty has hindered the market, however. Another problem is that companies have struggled to find appropriate distribution channels for their products. Acquisition funds for devices such as Minrad's DRTS often come out of a hospital's radiology budget, but surgery departments pay for supplies such as syringes, and it is mostly surgeons who use the devices. Yet more and more radiologists and surgeons are working together to provide therapy, according to Mott.

"Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are working closely with radiologists," Mott said. "I think this is the way therapy will be delivered in the future, and I absolutely believe that image-guided therapy, like MR and others, will begin to invigorate the growth of the least invasive surgery markets," Mott said.

As a result of the acquisition deal, Mott will be elected to Minrad's board. Greatbatch Scientific Division employees have been absorbed into Minrad, and the company expects to build a new facility in Buffalo, NY, in the next few years to accommodate its staff growth. The deal included an equity investment in Minrad by WGL, giving Greatbatch a 10% share of Minrad.