Nycomed and Bracco reveal plans to sustain contrast market growth

January 18, 1995

Continuity stressed at RSNA news conferencesDon't expect any sudden changes in the U.S. operations of HafslundNycomed and Bracco, the two contrast agent giants who dramaticallyexpanded their positions in the imaging market through

Continuity stressed at RSNA news conferences

Don't expect any sudden changes in the U.S. operations of HafslundNycomed and Bracco, the two contrast agent giants who dramaticallyexpanded their positions in the imaging market through acquisitionslast year. Stability and continuity were the themes echoed byNycomed and Bracco executives at the 1994 Radiological Societyof North America conference.

Nycomed officials assured Sterling Winthrop's former customersthat they'll notice no changes, despite the change in ownershiplast fall. Hafslund Nycomed, of Oslo, Norway, paid Paris-basedSanofi an estimated $450 million for Sterling Winthrop's imagingagent product line. The deal was completed in October (SCAN 10/12/94and 6/13/94). Sterling was formerly owned by Eastman Kodak.

Following the acquisition, Nycomed Inc. was founded to manageHafslund Nycomed's expanded U.S. business. Daniel Peters, formerpresident of Sanofi Winthrop U.S., was hired to run the new company.

While quelling uncertainty among its new customers, Braccoofficials explained the strategy behind the company's $500 millionacquisition of Squibb Diagnostics last year. The purchase wasessential to Bracco's plans to become a global power, accordingto Susanna Leto di Priolo, public relations director of the Milan-basedcompany.

The family-owned pharmaceutical/chemical concern had to builda comprehensive product line and expand into the U.S., the world'slargest market, she said. Vertical integration was needed to containcosts. The Squibb acquisition gives Bracco a big boost towardlong-term success, according to John Cornille, president of BraccoDiagnostics.

"We plan to become the premier diagnostic imaging contrastcompany in the world by 2000. We are well on our way toward thatobjective," he said.

Bracco Diagnostics was organized last year in Princeton, NJ,to manage Bracco's new U.S. affairs. Continuity was achieved byretaining Squibb's sales force. Bracco Diagnostics also signedan exclusive, long-term manufacturing and distribution agreementwith Bristol-Myers Squibb for production of imaging products,such as its Isovue nonionic contrast agent.

"Our customers will receive the same products and serviceand deal with the same people they always have," Cornillesaid.

Bracco's revenues will grow about 30% this year because ofthe acquisition, according to Leto di Priolo. The company willgenerate sales in fiscal 1995 of about 1.31 trillion lire ($807million as of Jan. 10), with contrast media sales accounting forabout 77% of the total, she said. About 300 employees from theSquibb acquisition have been added to the payroll.

Products in the pipeline. Thomas Giordano, Nycomed senior vicepresident of marketing and sales, identified several benefitsof the acquisition of Sterling Winthrop's diagnostic imaging businessinterest. Consolidation sharpens the combined companies' focuson the imaging contrast market, he said. It provides Nycomed witha U.S. sales organization steeped in managed-care and nationalaccount environments, and adds promising agents to its R&Dpipeline.

Visipaque (iodixanol) ranks high among the investigationalproducts with potential to generate sales growth, according toWerner Cautreels, senior vice president of research and development.It is expected to be the first nonionic agent for radiographicapplications.

SO-95 is an organ-selective MRI contrast agent for liver andspleen, Cautreels said. Phase-three trials have been completed,and a Food and Drug Administration new drug application (NDA)is being prepared. Abdoscan, a promising MRI gastrointestinalagent, is in phase-three trials.

Bracco is attempting to build creative synergy among the 33-personPrinceton laboratory acquired from Squibb, its ongoing operationsat a 245-person laboratory in Milan, and a 45-person researchfacility in Geneva, Switzerland.

The U.S. group specializes in nuclear medicine, MRI and drugtargeting, according to Dr. Christof de Ha'n, director of preclinicalresearch. The Bracco-Milan group develops x-ray and MRI agents,and the Geneva laboratory deals with drug delivery and ultrasoundimaging.

Like their Nycomed counterparts, Bracco officials are enthusedabout the commercial potential of products in the expanded R&Dpipeline. Iomeprol, the designated successor to Isovue, is a low-osmolarx-ray agent designed for brain, central nervous system and cardiovascularapplications. It has been introduced in Japan and Italy and anNDA is being developed for its U.S. release.

LumenHance is an oral MRI agent used to detect abdominal andpelvic diseases by delineating the GI tract from organs and tissues.An NDA is in preparation. Gadolinium BOPTA is an intravascularMRI contrast agent designed for imaging the liver. It is in phase-twoand phase-three clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe.

Scientists at Bracco's newly acquired Princeton laboratoryhave developed a 12-minute washout protocol for CardioTec, a technetium-99m-basedagent that competes with Du Pont's Cardiolite in the nuclear cardiologymarket. They are also testing a hypoxic tissue contrast agentto image viable but ischemic tissue in the heart, brain and extremities.It is in early clinical trials.

Officials at both companies expect blockbuster products toemerge from their ultrasound contrast research.

"Because of increasing cost pressures, we see ultrasoundas a modality that is going to grow in popularity and improvein terms of clinical utility," Giordano said.

Nycomed is developing ultrasound agents for cardiology andblood perfusion. Agents designed for blood-pool imaging and thedigestive tract are in preclinical testing, Cautreels said.

At Bracco, SonoRx, an oral agent initially licensed by Squibbfrom ImaRx of Tucson, is in phase-three trials (SCAN 3/10/93).It is intended to detect disease in the upper abdomen and GI tract.This effort complements Swiss research that led to BR-1, an intravenousagent designed for cardiac ultrasound studies. Although it isjust emerging from phase-one trials, Bracco officials alreadyanticipate great success for BR-1.