Philips strikes deal with Chinese institute to develop biomarkers

August 29, 2007

A joint research laboratory in China, designed to combine resources from Philips Medical Systems and the Institute of Health Sciences (IHS) in Shanghai, will develop biomarkers for in vitro and, ultimately, in vivo applications.

A joint research laboratory in China, designed to combine resources from Philips Medical Systems and the Institute of Health Sciences (IHS) in Shanghai, will develop biomarkers for in vitro and, ultimately, in vivo applications.

Philips and the IHS have signed a memorandum of understanding for a joint molecular medicine research program. The laboratory, expected to employ more than a dozen scientists from the two groups, will take shape in the next several months, after details on ownership, including how to share the rights to their developments, have been finalized.

The joint laboratory is the latest example of Philips' strategy of working with established research groups to extend its reach from diagnostic hardware and software to biotechnology, an answer to efforts made by rivals Siemens and GE to acquire companies specializing in in vitro diagnostics. In May, the Dutch company announced an alliance with biopharmaceutical company Organon to examine certain biomarkers for in vivo imaging ( DI SCAN 5/23/07, Philips strikes alliance with biopharm firm).

The Organon collaboration will use an R&D laboratory on the Philips campus in the Netherlands. In the joint research program with the Chinese institute, the team of 15 researchers, divided almost equally between the two groups, will work side by side at IHS facilities in Shanghai.

"We intend to start working at the IHS facilities the same day the final contract is signed," said Steve Klink, senior spokesperson for Philips Research.

IHS, which is part of the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences and is affiliated with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, has developed an expertise at turning preclinical advances into clinical applications, Klink said. The joint team will also have access to Philips' global research organization, including its European laboratories.

The researchers will look initially at biomarkers used as in vitro agents at the patient bedside, which complements the focus by Philips on patient monitoring. Later developments will shift toward medical imaging.

"We envision a synergy between in vitro and in vivo diagnostics," Klink said. "We will have the in vitro diagnostics to test whether a person is ill and the in vivo molecular imaging to assess the extent of illness in the body. Ultimately that would be the complete picture."

Philips plans to focus on diagnostics for cancer and infectious and genetic diseases. Company strategists will look for diagnostic opportunities in the healthcare systems of Western nations. The collaboration with IHS, however, may also have them turning their attention to Chinese hospitals, Klink said.

"Within the first year of collaboration, we will look at which diseases would be most relevant to China and which would be the best choice for us to work on," he said.