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Stereotaxis adds Philips as partner in magnetically guided cardiac cath


Company solidifies ongoing relationship with SiemensStereotaxis continues to build on its strategy of maintaining an open architecture for its interventional toolkit for cardiac catheterization. On Sept. 16, the company, which has

Company solidifies ongoing relationship with Siemens

Stereotaxis continues to build on its strategy of maintaining an open architecture for its interventional toolkit for cardiac catheterization. On Sept. 16, the company, which has developed a proprietary technology for guiding catheters through the body, revealed an agreement with Philips Medical Systems to add the Niobe cardiac interventional platform to the Integris Allura Flat Detector catheterization laboratory system. Stereotaxis is also expanding its relationship with Siemens Medical Systems to develop advanced technology that will further differentiate Siemens catheterization laboratory capabilities.

Through its agreement with Philips, Stereotaxis will engage in a two-step integration process linking the Niobe computer-controlled magnetic navigation system for guiding vascular catheters and guidewires with Philips' lines of interventional and electrophysiology x-ray equipment. The agreement comes as a 30-month exclusive contract with Siemens is drawing to a close. But rather than end its relationship with Siemens, Stereotaxis is widening its collaboration with the German company to jointly fashion improvements in the Axiom Artis dFC magnetic navigation system, which incorporates Niobe.

"Going forward, our relationship with Siemens will revolve not around contract exclusivity but on joint work on new technology that will focus on Siemens' core competencies and bring incremental value to cath lab end users," said Bevil Hogg, CEO of St. Louis-based Stereotaxis. "Our strategic alliance with Philips allows us to integrate our platform with Philips' equipment and provide our system to the portion of the marketplace that prefers to install Philips' x-ray systems."

The company's objective is to add a new level of precision to cardiac cath procedures through computer control over endovascular devices. In the process, company executives expect to add value by increasing productivity, reducing x-ray exposure, and enhancing the ability of medical staff to execute complex interventions.

That's a big undertaking for a small company of only about 110 employees, which is the reason Stereotaxis is relying on partnerships with the major imaging device companies. It is also the reason Stereotaxis is putting such a premium on an open architecture that accommodates diverse imaging equipment.

Stereotaxis focuses on the catheter-not its visualization. The company's Niobe system controls the leading edge of interventional devices such as catheters and guidewires using a precisely controlled magnetic field to guide passage through blood vessels. A computer interface, using a joystick or mouse, allows the operator to change direction within the vasculature, based on digital fluoroscopic images. Flat-panel devices, such as those developed by Siemens and Philips, operate in the strong magnetic field created by Niobe. Image intensifiers do not.

Niobe promises to open the door to technically difficult interventions-lengthy electrophysiological procedures, complex lesion crossings, multivessel disease management, and interventional cardiology-as well as the treatment of cardiac diseases such as atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and chronic total occlusion, according to Hogg.

There are benefits for the operator too. Because endovascular instruments are controlled by a remote computerized connection, the clinician can guide the interventional device from well outside the x-ray field, increasing safety and eliminating the need to don lead-lined protection.

Because of the need to install magnetic shielding before it can be used, cardiac interventional systems employing the Niobe magnetic navigation system are slated for customers buying new or replacement cardiac catheterization equipment. The only way for Stereotaxis to penetrate this market, according to Hogg, is by partnering with the digital x-ray giants that dominate it.

Siemens was the first imaging company to integrate Niobe with flat-panel digital fluoroscopy equipment. A commercially available hybrid of the Axiom Artis and Niobe debuted March 30 at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology (SCAN 4/2/03). Siemens and Stereotaxis began work on the system in 2001, focusing on the control, information exchange, and mechanical interface levels that would lead to a user-friendly product.

The Stereotaxis magnetic navigation system will be a critical element in the development of Axiom Artis interventional cardiac catheterization suites, said Robert Dewey, director of Siemens cardiology programs. This is especially so for electrophysiological studies and ablations that often require devices to follow tortuous paths, also for directing interventional cardiologists through convoluted vessel structures to deploy stents. Using Stereotaxis' technology is part of Siemens' overall objective to wrap all the pieces of cardiology imaging and intervention together in a unified approach that provides a holistic, fully integrated solution.

Keying off its recently inked agreement, Philips will comarket and cosell Stereotaxis equipment with its catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories beginning next year, said John Steidley, vice president of x-ray systems. Philips is already engaged in what Steidley calls light integration, which is merging existing catheterization and magnetic navigation capabilities in one room of equipment. On a more intense level of integration, the two technologies will be adapted to one another to improve workflow and interoperability.

"The agreement with Stereotaxis provides another tool for the interventionalist to use cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology equipment more effectively," he said. "We think the Stereotaxis equipment is a good fit with our flat-detector catheterization laboratories and a further indication of our movement toward creating the complete lab for physicians and providing solutions for all their requirements."

The arrangement with Philips will carry Stereotaxis along the same path it took with Siemens. The first step will be to forge a seamless software and hardware connection with Philips' latest digital flat-panel x-ray system. In the future, Stereotaxis expects to expand its work with Philips in other areas of technological development for the catheterization laboratory, Hogg said.

"It's important for us to be impartial as to the value proposition that our imaging partners bring to the cath lab, so as to be able to focus on providing the very best product, the latest technology, and optimal productivity to the purchasers of our system," Hogg said. "We do not want to be an arbiter of x-ray systems."

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