Beckman Coulter, Biosite, Inverness, MedTox, Group Health, Henry Ford, Johns Hopkins

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BECKMAN COULTER HOPES TO COMPLETE ACQUISITION OF BIOSITE

FINGERS ARE CROSSED at Beckman Coulter, Inc., as the company hopes to complete its acquisition of Biosite, Inc., by tomorrow night (May 15 at midnight). Its original offer to purchase Biosite on March 25 was eclipsed by another buyer on April 5.

Under a recently revised purchase agreement, Beckman Coulter, located in Fullerton, California, will acquire all the outstanding common stock of San Diego-based Biosite for $90 per share, representing a purchase price of about $1.67 billion. The $90 price was $5 higher than its original price of $1.55 billion, agreed to by Biosite in a deal announced on March 25. The $90 also matches an offer from the other interested bidder for Biosite, which was Inverness Medical Innovations, Inc., of Waltham, Massachusetts.

Competition to buy Biosite is another indication of the high value both diagnostic companies and investors are placing on companies with promising molecular test technologies. Bloomberg reported that the companies are fighting to gain a Biosite blood test for heart failure that can be used on emergency patients. Biosite says 70% of U.S. hospitals use at least one of its products. Federal statistics show that 4.8 million Americans have heart failure and 400,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

MEDTOX SCIENTIFIC REPORTS STRONG GROWTH FOR FIRST QUARTER

THERE’S BEEN PLENTY OF GOOD NEWS LATELY at MedTox Scientific, Inc., which is a major player in the drugs-of-abuse testing market. The company reported double-digit growth in revenue, gross profit, and net income for first quarter 2007.

First quarter revenue increased 16%, from $16.4 million to $19.0 million. Operating income rose by 22%, from $1.7 million in Q1-2006 to $2.4 million for Q1- 2007. MedTox, of St. Paul, Minnesota, had a whopping increase in net income of 106%, from $801,000 in the first quarter last year to $1.6 million in the most recent quarter.

Investors have loved the performance of MedTox Scientific. Since May 1 of last year, its share price soared from about $9 to as high as $24 earlier this month. Recently this month, The Street.com rated Medtox one of its five best small cap stocks, saying “The company has shown impressive stock price appreciation, a notable return on equity, and a strong gross profit margin.”

Medtox has an interesting mix of forensic toxicology products and services. It manufactures and distributes a line of point-of-care drugs of abuse test kits for use by employers and others. It also provides a complete menu of drugs of abuse tests, along with expertise in esoteric TDM (therapeutic drug monitoring) assays.

WILL HEALTHY ADULTS WANT TO BE SCREENED USING GENETIC TESTS?

ARE HEALTHY ADULTS INTERESTED in genetic testing to see if they have one or more of eight common conditions? That’s what the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) want to know.

NHGRI and NCI are working with Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington, and Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, to determine interest in such tests among individuals aged 25 to 40. Called the Multiplex Initiative, the study will gauge how basically healthy people who undergo these tests interpret the results and how they act upon this knowledge.

Researchers want to advance the concept of personalized medicine. The plan is to gather information on 15 different genes that are known to play roles in “disease that include type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and malignant melanoma,” said NHGRI Scientific Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. “This study will be an important first step in understanding how such testing can be practically used in primary care settings.”

The study also wants to answer some questions which are continually asked in the laboratory testing community. Do healthy individuals want to know genetic information about whether or not they are genetically predisposed to certain diseases? After undergoing free genetic testing, will they change the way they interact with their physicians and the healthcare system?

This research is significant for pathologists and lab directors because the results may be useful in helping labs identify how to market their services to physicians and individuals interested in such testing. If the research shows that a certain percentage of the population is interested in genetically identified disease risk, then labs will be able to develop programs to conduct such tests and counsel individuals about the results.

INFECTION RATES OF HOSPITALS WILL BE AVAILABLE TO CONSUMERS

JOINING A GROWING NATIONAL MOVEMENT, the Texas House passed a bill this month to make hospitals report infection rates. Earlier, the Texas Senate passed a similar bill. If the bill becomes law, Texas would become the 15th state to have laws requiring public reporting of hospital infection rates.

Consumer Union reports that two states (California and Rhode Island) require public reporting of infection information, but not specifically infection rates. Two states (Nebraska and Nevada) require confidential reporting of infection rates. All other states, except Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming, have considered hospital infection reporting laws, but have yet to pass legislation.

There is another trend that signals how deeply rooted the patient safety movement is becoming. Now some hospital CEOs and senior administrators have compensation plans that link a portion of their pay to improvements in safety measures, including a reduced rate of nosocomial infections and a decrease in medication errors.

The Boston Globe reported that the chief executive officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, could lose as much as a third of his $195,000 annual performance bonus if the hospital fails in two goals. One goal is to increase the number of doctors and nurses who wash hands between patients. The second goal is to reduce certain types of infections.

For hospital laboratories, efforts to reduce nosocomial infections are translating into increased in-house testing, as well as more intense effort to eliminate infections from one patient to another and from hospital staff to patients. Last month, The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, started to aggressively test every child admitted to the pediatric ICU for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). Currently, it is standard procedure to screen all adult patients in the ICU for MRSA and VRE.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital found that this test protocol detected MRSA in one and a half times as many patients as compared with standard monitoring. VRE was detected six times more frequently. These findings demonstrate why the American healthcare system will continually find new evidence that leads to increased utilization of laboratory tests.

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