Toshiba and Siemens join forces to develop ultrasound components

June 10, 1998

Companies will retain clinical applications R&DMultimodality vendors Toshiba and Siemens have found a creative solution to keeping up with the fast pace of development in the highly competitive ultrasound market. The two companies last month

Companies will retain clinical applications R&D

Multimodality vendors Toshiba and Siemens have found a creative solution to keeping up with the fast pace of development in the highly competitive ultrasound market. The two companies last month announced an agreement to collaborate on the development of basic ultrasound technology.

In announcing the collaboration on May 28, Toshiba and Siemens representatives said they hope the alliance will help each company bring products to market more quickly and efficiently. The agreement covers basic technology commonly used in ultrasound scanners, such as beamformer components. Each firm will continue to independently develop, manufacture, and market its own product line, and also to develop specific clinical applications.

Such agreements have become increasingly common as medical imaging vendors strive to keep their technology current across all product lines without busting their R&D budgets. Siemens and Toshiba make good partners: The firms are not ultrasound arch-rivals on the level of Acuson or ATL, and they already collaborate in the nuclear medicine market, where Siemens provides its E.Cam gamma cameras for resale by Toshiba. Indeed, the success of the E.Cam agreement led the companies to pursue a deal in ultrasound, according to Masamichi Katsurada, president of Toshiba America Medical Systems in Tustin, CA.

The ultrasound market will probably see the first scanners resulting from the partnership in the next three years, Katsurada said. In the meantime, Toshiba and Siemens engineers will shuttle between Japan and the Siemens Ultrasound Group headquarters in Issaquah, WA.

Toshiba executives stressed that the firms plan to retain individual control over such factors as clinical applications development, which will allow them to differentiate their products in the market. Toshiba would not transfer to Siemens its Flash Echo Imaging harmonic-based contrast enhancement technique, for example, nor would Siemens lose control of its novel SieScape extended field-of-view application.

The announcement of the collaboration coincided with Ultrasound 2000, a special summit Toshiba hosted on May 28 in Newport Beach, CA. Toshiba convened the meeting to discuss new ultrasound clinical applications under development, and also to introduce the ultrasound community to its new product line and management team.

Toshiba recently revamped its ultrasound executive lineup, bringing on former Johnson & Johnson executive Michael McLean to lead the unit as vice president, and hiring Ross Heaton, previously with Perception Ultrasound, as director of ultrasound marketing.

Ultrasound 2000 attendees also got a look at PowerVision 6000, Toshiba's new ultrasound scanner, which was launched at the Leading Edge conference prior to the Toshiba summit. PowerVision 6000 is a 256-channel digital system and will compete in the $150,000 price point.