Ultrafast CT alliance starts out of gate slowly

April 21, 1993

The joint marketing and development effort between Siemens andultrafast CT developer Imatron has yet to translate into successfor the South San Francisco, CA-based company. Imatron last monthposted disappointing financial results for 1992 and

The joint marketing and development effort between Siemens andultrafast CT developer Imatron has yet to translate into successfor the South San Francisco, CA-based company. Imatron last monthposted disappointing financial results for 1992 and attributedthe numbers to lower scanner sales.

Imatron reported revenues of $14.3 million for 1992 (end-December),down $8.6 million from revenues of $22.9 million the year before.The company suffered a net loss of $6.5 million last year, comparedto a net income of $1 million in 1991.

Imatron and the German vendor signed a marketing and developmentagreement in March 1991 that included Imatron's ultrafast CT machine(SCAN 12/2/92). The unit was redesigned, given a spiral scanningmode and dubbed Evolution EBT, a name derived from the electronbeam tomography technology that enables faster scanning.

Faster scanning has not yet led to faster sales, however. Thecompanies sold fewer Evolution EBTs last year than expected, accordingto Imatron chairman Douglas P. Boyd.

"Imatron breaks even when we ship 14 scanners a year,and last year the number was around nine or 10," Boyd said.

A factor in the slow start is the change from Imatron's olderultrafast CT model, C-100, to the Siemens model, which Imatronrefers to as C-150. The C-150 marketing program started severalmonths late, Boyd said. Four C-150 scanners were shipped lastyear, he said.

Another problem was the sluggish equipment purchasing market,in which few buyers were willing to pay Evolution's $1.95 millionlist price.

Siemens remains pleased with Evolution's progress, accordingto Boyd, who predicts growth this year in overseas sales, particularlyin Asia. A drop in overseas sales last year hurt the company'srevenues, he said.

In order to promote the unique applications made possible byEvolution's speed, Imatron has opened a dedicated cardiac screeningclinic at the company's South San Francisco headquarters. HeartScanImaging serves as a showplace for Evolution's coronary arteryscanning, Boyd said.

The clinic screens patients considered to be at risk for coronaryartery disease but who do not have symptoms of atherosclerosis.

"We are looking for coronary calcification, which hasbeen identified to be 100% specific as a marker for atherosclerosis,"Boyd said.

Ultrafast CT screening should prove superior to electrocardiogramtreadmill tests, which are neither very specific nor very sensitive,according to Boyd.

"This is really the first time there has been an effectivescreening test for coronary artery disease," Boyd said. "We'reinterested in looking at the progression of the disease as well."

The tests are being offered to the public at $375 per scan.Imatron will hold an open house in May to familiarize area physicianswith the service.

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • Cost cutting has apparently helped GE Medical Systemskeep its bottom line healthy in a competitive medical imagingmarket. GE's medical business had a slightly higher operatingprofit in the first quarter of this year compared to the sameperiod in 1992. Revenues, however, were flat.

  • Kodak signed on an established European distributor tosupply cine film, equipment and accessories to cardiac catheterizationlaboratories in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria andEastern Europe. MAASS GmbH of Neuenkirchen, Germany, has soldsupplies in the European cardiology market for 10 years.

  • GE Medical Systems has entered the growing MR mammographyniche with a bilateral breast coil for use on the company's Signascanners. GE's Breast Imaging Accessory is designed to image patientsin the prone position and allows simultaneous imaging of bothbreasts. The accessory, which has received FDA clearance for marketing,can be used with GE's 1.5-tesla, 1-tesla and 0.5-tesla Signa scanners.