Sopha ventures into MRI business with majority purchase of French firm

May 22, 1991

Sopha Medical entered the magnetic resonance imaging market inMarch with its acquisition of a controlling 51% share in Magnetech,a small French firm that developed a 0.1-tesla resistive MRI system. Sopha is eager to branch out into other medical

Sopha Medical entered the magnetic resonance imaging market inMarch with its acquisition of a controlling 51% share in Magnetech,a small French firm that developed a 0.1-tesla resistive MRI system.

Sopha is eager to branch out into other medical imaging applicationsafter its success in nuclear medicine. It does not, however, intendto become a full-line, multimodality vendor at this time, saidColin McNaught, president of Sopha Medical Systems of Columbia,MD, the firm's U.S. subsidiary.

"There is a corporate desire to expand into other modalities,particularly with niche products that bring new technologies toexisting marketplaces," McNaught told SCAN.

The French medical imaging company is still gauging opportunitiesin MRI and other modalities, he said. No decision has been madewhether to bring the Magnetech system to the U.S. The unit iscurrently sold only in France, he said.

"We are still evaluating the U.S. market," he said."The competition is tough, but the trend to more economicsystems should result in significant growth in the low-field marketover the next five to 10 years."

Acquisition of a controlling interest in Magnetech marks thefirst time Sopha has purchased another company to obtain technology,McNaught said. Most of the firm's nuclear camera and computertechnology was internally developed.

Sopha did enter the field of bone densitometry through a licensingagreement with the CEA, France's atomic energy authority. Thefirm manufactures a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) systembased on CEA technology. Sopha works closely with the French agency,using it almost as a research wing of the company, he said.

The imaging executive did not rule out the possibility thatSopha might follow the Magnetech purchase with other strategicacquisitions, but he would not comment on potential targets.

Resonex of Sunnyvale, CA, is one of the few independent MRIcompanies in the U.S. Resonex also makes a resistive scanner.That firm, however, has no intention of losing its independence,said president Gerald D. Knudsen.

Resonex teamed up with Hewlett-Packard last year in a productdevelopment agreement that may also extend to worldwide marketingand service cooperation (SCAN 12/12/90). The smaller MRI companyhas performed well lately, with strong growth in its order backlog.Improved prospects for Resonex have whetted the appetites of somepotential acquirers, Knudsen acknowledged.

"The fact is that there is a lot of interest in pursuingResonex right now, but we are not interested. We have earned theright to stand alone," he told SCAN.

Three Magnetech systems are installed in France, accordingto Dr. Robert Lavayssiere, a French radiologist and general secretaryof the Association des Utilisateurs des Techniques d'ImagerieLourde. This association, a branch of the Private Practicing Radiologists'Union, is concerned with imaging techniques in major equipmentsystems, including MRI.

The scanner has a number of dedicated surface coils and someproprietary image sequences designed for three-dimensional imaging.The console is user-friendly, with Macintosh-type menus and amouse. The MRI system runs on a Digital Equipment Vaxstation computerand has a standard optical disk, Lavayssiere said.